No Payment for Chores
In our house we do not pay for chores. As Joel Salatin writes in The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, “Kids shouldn’t be paid for breathing.”
As a member of the household, there are unending responsibilities – laundry, dishes, dusting, paying the bills, cooking – the list goes on and on. We strike a balance (hopefully) with our partners – “I’ll handle cleaning the toilets if you can do the vacuuming” – and it isn’t limited to the adults in the family. Emily is learning this as well.
I explained it to her like this – “Emily, you are a member of this household. You make messes, just like us, and eat the food, just like us. And just like us, you will do what you can to help with the running of the household.”
And although she may wish for something different, I think that she accepts it. This is the way it is – we work together to make our home run as smoothly as possible and we all benefit from our efforts. But there is a clear distinction between housework inside the home and my cleaning biz…
Payment for Services Rendered
I run a cleaning biz – it’s a small one, just a handful of clients – and Emily tags along whenever I have a cleaning to go to. She is responsible for carrying the bags of rags and the extendable dusting pole. I handle the rest. After the cleaning we head out and she puts the dirty microfiber rags behind the driver’s seat and the clean ones along with the extendable dusting pole,in the back of the van with the rest of the equipment .
Last week as I prepared to vacuum some stairs with the little handheld she asked if she could do it instead. “Sure,” I said, a little surprised. She has occasionally wanted to help clean mirrors and the like, but rarely asked to help vacuum. As she began to vacuum I headed downstairs with the upright vacuum and finished the rest of the vacuuming and it occurred to me that we had just crossed a very definitive black line.
When she helps me on my work that is very different from her helping me around the house. She is assisting me (up until this point for free) in earning money. Her help shaved maybe three minutes off of my total time – but still – she was doing something out of the range of “citizen of the household.”
Keeping in mind that she is only 5 1/2 years old, I decided to keep it simple. “Emily, when you help me out with a cleaning, you can earn money when you do a good job at it.” I told her. “For example, having your help moving stuff from the car and then back, really helps me. I would like to pay you 25 cents for each cleaning, just for helping me move the stuff in and then back out.” Her eyes brightened with interest.
“You also helped me by vacuuming those stairs at the Donovan house.” I continued. “That saved me time and helped me out – I think that you should get 25 cents each time you vacuum a set of stairs.” The child looked positively giddy. “Now that money will be yours to spend as you like.”
She immediately chirped, “I want to put that in savings for Disneyland!”
And Speaking of Disneyland
We began saving for Disneyland in May. Now it isn’t 100% income earned by Emily – I have definitely been involved in this process! We put aside money for Disneyland in several ways…
- HyVee gas rebate – usually the gas refund with grocery receipt is around 85 cents per fill-up. That’s not much, but it goes into savings nonetheless.
- Fresh egg sales – Since Emily checks on the chickens daily, feeds them extra treats, checks on their water and food levels (she’s too small to replace these herself), and collects the eggs – she earns around $9 per week.
- Short-term loans – Emily has money in her savings account and sometimes we find ourselves with more month than money. I temporarily transfer $100 out of her account into one of ours and then shift it back a week or two later with a $10 “lending fee” added on. It’s a heck of a sight better than paying an insufficient funds charge AND Emily is making some money on the deal.
- Farmer’s Market – we sell anything we have on hand – infused honey, lip balm, homemade applesauce, and much more. And while there is a small investment of time and money on my side, all of the sales go into the bank.
Currently we are seeing anywhere from $30-$50 per week going into her savings account and we are already at 41% of goal!
Here is the updated total on our Disneyland savings…
Family Profit Sharing
We are beginning to implement an informal “family profit sharing” – when we have a few dollars to spare, I give it to Emily. It plays out something like this…
A month or so ago, the ice cream man was making regular trips down our block. This would send Emily and all the other neighbor children in a frenzy as they ran towards their money source (Mom or Dad) to beg for money. I was usually busy with dinner or working on some project when Emily would burst in the door, wild-eyed and jonesing for a dollar…or two.
I remember what it was like. Oh how I remember!
So about three weeks ago I handed her four dollars. “Emily, this is for you to spend on the ice cream man. Keep it here in this drawer, so you always know where to find it. I’ve given you four dollars, which can buy you four ice cream cones, but you can spend it however you like. However, it has to last until Sister gets here (I can’t wait until August 9th!!!) and you may not ask me for any more money before that. If you choose to buy that other more expensive cone for $2.50 you will not have much left, so keep that in mind.”
It has been nearly three weeks and the money is still in the drawer, untouched. This is probably because she hasn’t heard the ice cream man come by. More importantly, it has been stress-free for me and Emily feels empowered over having her own little stash of money.
A win for both of us. She has money to spend when that bell starts ringing through the neighborhood and my project at hand isn’t interrupted with a frantic scramble for cash.
I will be discussing further money experiences at the farmer’s market in a later post. Emily and I are learning a great deal from the farmer’s market – barter, salesmanship, cooperation, patience, and so much more. Stay tuned!