Friday, March 3, 2017

Childhood Chores, Choices, and Cash

The other day, a cousin of mine posted about a new game system her son desperately wanted. She was unsure for various reasons if she should allow him to have it.
She thought he should earn it, and rightly so. To which her son replied, but I already have the money in my savings!

So goes the quandary of parents, everywhere.
How do you teach children the value of money if you just buy them things?
How do you teach children the value of work if they can use their money any way or time they wish?
How do you teach children the skills to navigate through this messy, monetary world? And how do you teach those skills without 'adulting' your child?

It's difficult, to say the least.

When my three kids were little, I had a poster board of chores on the kitchen wall. When I say little, I mean my youngest was in first grade. Yeah, they were young and tiny (gah, they grow up so quick!).
No chores were assigned, but they were clearly marked what day they needed to be done along with the 'pay rate' of that chore.

The child that did the chore got the set amount for that chore.
Payday for chore(s) was at the end of the week.

When they got a little older, chores were assigned. Just like a real job where you had a 'job description' and 'pay wage.'
Now, having two boys and a girl, I didn't discriminate on wages. The job paid what it paid.
The child chose which job(s) they wanted to do.
Each job title had different levels of difficulty and time commitment and therefore different levels of pay.
Jobs lasted for a month (ohmygott! a month was like, forever to a child!) but it was the only way to allow for different 'career' choices, level of effort willing to put in, and wages of each while allowing each child to experience the different concepts inherent in each choice, job, and payscale.

If child 'A' wanted to be the dishwasher (we had to do them by hand because we didn't have a machine), the job title 'Dishwasher' with job description 'must be done daily after dinner' paid X amount of money weekly.
Likewise, 'Disposal Worker' job description was taking out the trash (different days of the week for kitchen/bathroom etc) and taking dumpsters to curb on correct day. Disposal worker paid less than dishwasher as it required less total amount of activity and wasn't as difficult as dishwashing.
Mom always took up the slack. Any job the kids didn't choose, I did (plus a lot more they had no clue about!).

All this was just to teach my kids about the value of hard work and earning money because not all jobs pay the same. YOU decide how much work you're willing to put in and you get paid accordingly. Such is life, right?

Of course, they couldn't purchase things without money. If they spent all their money willy-nilly they couldn't get the things they truly wanted.
That would be about the time they started whining to me they *really*really*really* wanted something and they would be *extra*extra* good to get it, and yes they would even *clean their room* without being asked if I would just buy them *X* right now. HA!

Bring on the 'Gotta Notta Wanna' idea.
If they wanted something, they were encouraged to make a list in order of how badly they wanted that item. Usually, this list only had things they wanted on it. So it was encouraged that things they had to do/purchase go on the list as well. They didn't always make a list. Matter of fact, it was hard to get them to make a list. But when they did have one, each item was marked as a GOTTA or a WANNA.
Gotta's came before the Wanna's. Time was factored in as well. Sometimes, you had two or three GOTTA's before a WANNA.

An imaginary budget was set up for each child. They had rent/mortgage, utilities, and 'fun money.'
The scale was 1/100th of a real budget.
Of course they had taxes, too! But the taxes weren't imaginary. Nor were they monetary!
Whenever they wanted a sandwich- just before handing it to them- I'd take a bite out of it and proudly proclaim, 'taxes!' and walk off chewing.

Whines and screams of, 'hey, that's not fair!' would fill the room. Now, I know taking a bite out of a sandwich isn't the same as taking money out of earnings, but by using food they got the idea rather immediately. And that was the point.

One summer, my two youngest wanted to have a lemonade stand. So we made one out of spare wood pieces and leftover paint. They had to decide how much lemonade would go in each cup, how many cups they could get out of one packet etc. They had to figure in the cost of the lemonade, the sugar, the cups, and the time it took to make the stand and 'work it'. (I didn't charge them for water (too difficult and not time effective), or gas since I had to go to the store anyway.)
Needless to say, they didn't make much money. Most of their profit came from the neighbor we called Mr. Neurotic (he had to mow his yard every 4 days, edge to perfection, aerate, spray, and water religiously). Because Mr. Neurotic was outside mowing a lot, he bought most of the lemonade.
They didn't become rich like they thought. But they had fun and learned a lesson.

This money and budgeting lesson only lasted a couple of years.
The kids and I got so busy the upkeep of the system was slowly replaced with sports practice and other school functions (I became home room mom, PTA Fundraiser chair, Carnival planner, Book Fair organizer, etc).

However, the phrase 'Gotta Notta Wanna' and the 'Taxes!' really stuck. Which when you think about it was the overall idea anyway. You have to decide if something is a GOTTA or a WANNA, plan accordingly, and don't forget about taxes.

<sigh, again>
I really wish I would have kept the poster board. It would be a great reminder today.

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