You can teach your children how to be responsible with money by giving them an opportunity to manage it on their own from a young age. One way to do this is to give kids a chance to earn an allowance by doing chores.
Children should have chores that they don’t get paid for, said Mary Ellen Renna, a pediatrician and author of “10 Steps to Almost Perfect Parenting.” But, they also should have the ability to make money by doing additional chores.
“It’s really important kids understand the meaning of money,” said Renna. “They have to understand it takes work to earn money.”
You can start offering your kids a chance to work around the house for money at age 5, and pay them $1 for every year of age they are for completing tasks, she said. But even toddlers can earn rewards, such as toys, for helping out and being part of the household team, Renna said.
Here are nine chores kids can do at various ages to earn an allowance. You can take Renna’s approach and pay them an amount equal to their age for tasks that take time to complete, use the pay guidelines provided below or choose an amount based on the difficulty and amount of time it takes to complete a chore. Make sure you don’t overpay your children, though. Otherwise, they will get used to making a lot a money for small tasks and will have inflated expectations about what they will earn in the real world, said Renna.
1. Washing Dishes
If your young child always wants a new toy, stop spoiling them and make them perform this chore in order to earn the latest doll, gadget or video game.
Renna said that 2- and 3-year-olds love playing with water. So, give them an opportunity to collect stars by helping you wash plastic dishes and dry them. Once they get a certain number of stars, they can get a small toy.
Once kids are older, they can take over the dish washing entirely by loading and unloading the dishwasher, or washing items by hand.
2. Doing the Laundry
Children as young as 5 can help with washing clothes — sorting them by color, putting them into the washing machine and folding them when dry, Renna said. Once they’re big enough to reach into the washing machine, transfer clothes to the dryer and can be trusted to measure the amount of detergent needed, they can do the laundry from start to finish.
My daughters have been required to put their dirty clothes in a hamper as part of their non-paid chores since they were little. Now that they’re ages 9 and 11, they do their laundry on their own, put their clean clothes back in their dresser drawers and get paid $3 each time they do it. It’s not nearly $1 per year of age, but their actual hands-on time doing a load of laundry is about 30 minutes — which is a half an hour I don’t have to spend doing something they’re capable of doing.
Kids ages 5 and up can get paid for keeping the house clean by sweeping, said Joe Eppy, founder of financial planning firm The Eppy Group and father of two.
“Watching your 5-year-old hold a broom is sure to warm any mother’s heart,” he said. He recommended paying $5 for this task.
Kids who are just a few years older can switch from sweeping to vacuuming and cover more ground. My 9-year-old frequently volunteers for this task and gets paid $10 for vacuuming the common areas and hallways in our house.
Children as young as 5 years old can handle dusting surfaces around your house. Eppy recommended providing a feather duster instead of a rag and spray cleaner because it’s a safe and fun way to dust for young children. He suggested paying $5 for this chore.
5. Watering the Garden
If you have a vegetable garden or flower beds, you can pay your kids to keep everything watered. Plus, it’s a good way to get kids outdoors. Children ages 5 and up are capable of this chore, Eppy said, and can be paid $5 or more — depending on the area that needs to be watered. Just be sure to show them how to water plants properly so they’re not damaged or left thirsty because they didn’t get enough water.
Kids who are old enough to be left outdoors without supervision can take on other tasks such as weeding, raking leaves and mowing the grass, Renna said. Your payment should reflect the size of your yard and the amount of time it takes to complete the task.
6. Clipping Coupons
If you clip coupons as a way to save money, you can delegate this time-consuming task to kids who are old enough to use scissors — typically 8 and up, said Nedalee Thomas, founder of PrincessPower.com, a site that helps people live the good life on less.
“Giving them $5 a week is a great way for them to earn money while you save,” she said. And they’ll be learning about the benefits of coupons and cutting costs.
Just be sure to give them a rundown on the types of coupons your family uses so you don’t end up with a lot of coupons for candy, cookies and other treats they want.
7. Cleaning the Windows
Kids ages 9 and up should be able to clean windows in the house and get paid $10, Eppy said. Be sure, though, to warn kids about the dangers of using cleaning chemicals and show them how to properly use window cleaners, he said.
Unless they’re tall enough or you have a sturdy step stool, you might want to limit shorter children to cleaning only the windows they can reach while standing on the floor.
8. Helping Prepare Meals
This is a great chore that can teach your kids how to save money. Go beyond the usual household chores, and let your kids help you make dinner, said Donna Conroy, co-founder of House Monkey, an app and web-based tool that helps families organize, schedule and complete chores. Knowing how to cook will be a useful skill when they’re adults because it will help them save money on food costs.
Young children can do simple things, such as mix. Elementary-age kids who have been introduced to fractions and measurements, such as tablespoon and cup, can follow a recipe. Payment can vary depending on the task’s difficulty, Conroy said. Of course, a child who prepares an entire meal should get paid more than a small child who pours milk into a bowl and mixes the batter for pancakes.
9. Helping at Parties or Family Gatherings
If you have a party or gathering at your house, you could hire your kids to help, Renna said. Younger children could pick up plates, cups and trash that need to be tossed or taken to the kitchen. Preteens can be responsible for keeping platters of food full and non-alcoholic beverages available or actually serving food and drinks.
Renna recommended paying $1 per the child’s age for this chore. So a 7-year-old who collects trash throughout a party would get $7, and a 12-year-old who serves food to guests would get $12.
Regardless of the chore, you should let your kids know how much they’ll be paid in advance. Not only should you give your kids a chance to earn money, but you should require them to use that money to buy things they want.
“Once a child realizes how difficult it was to come up with the money desired to buy something, it will change their perspective on throwing away money on something of lesser importance,” Eppy said. They’ll learn how to save and how to make smart choices with the money they have.