Growing up, my parents developed a whiz-bang money system for us kids. They wanted to raise fiscally responsible children who knew how to work and save and spend wisely. Their full system is outlined in this book (and a few of their other books – they’ve written lots of great books).
I remember pretty vividly the day my Dad introduced the new “system.” He sat us down on our big brown patchwork sectional and showed us a video he had made… of himself explaining our new money system. (This is a great parenting tactic I need to remind myself to use some day because wow, we sure paid attention when Dad was on TV!)
Well, during our family reunion last month, my brother surprised us with that very video. Boy oh boy we were all about to bust a gut watching that sweet footage. And it was great to realize as we watched that everyone, even my parents who are “super parents” in my eyes, adjust stuff to meet the needs of their own individual family and have quite a few ideas that end up flopping.
My parents were dying at the part around 15:30 where my dad talks about taking away points for negative behavior because they’re so into the positive reinforcement. They obviously adjusted that a lot. They also adjusted how darn complicated it was because it really did work in their mellowed-down version. We were all dying over how you could earn or lose a half a point here or there and about many different systems those points were connected to.
I know it is long, but honestly, skip to the middle part (maybe around 8:40, or 10:50 is even better, and 16:10) and see if you don’t think it was the most complicated thing you’ve ever heard. (And skip this whole video and move on if you want to get right to some specifics on my family’s non-complicated version that really works!)
I’m sure I’m a bit biased, but don’t think that is the cutest Dad there ever was…especially at the end (17:10).
Anyway, the system worked (after quite a few simplifications and tweaks). Boy, did I want to earn money! My parents had us pay for our own clothes and earn all our own spending money starting when we were eight so you bet I needed it. Plus our system provided ten percent interest per quarter. You sure can’t beat that! I had enough saved up (because of our 10-20-70 principle we adhered to strictly…more about that further down) to write up a big check from my account in the family bank to pay for my first year’s tuition at Boston University.
When I became a mother I wanted to teach our kids about work and money from the start. But I didn’t think I had it in me to do the whole shebang my parents had done. And Dave, who didn’t grow up with our system, had his own ideas. We came up with several more simple methods for kids to deal with money. And as all parents know, as with any parenting idea, these things have to be worked and re-worked. And then re-worked again. Over and over again we re-vamped our money system. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t want their kids to grow up money-savvy and UN- “entitled” in a world that could eat you alive if you don’t understand things like credit card debt and the concept of savings? Some things Dave and I did worked great. Others flopped. But finally this year, as our kids have finally reached an age of understanding a little bit better (our five kids range in age from 6-15), we were ready: We adopted “The Eyre Money System” in it’s almost entirety. And we’re finally in a stage where it works. REALLY works.
Here’s a quick overview of what we do (my parents’ system updated, simplified, and customized for our family):
1. CHARTS: Each week I tape these little puppies up for the kids to check off on a daily basis:
Yeah, as you can see, it’s taken certain kids a little longer to get going on this than others, but three of them are full-fledged into it now every week. We have a little work to go on the others…
There are just four things they have to do each day, but some are inclusive of more than one task.
1) “Morning Stuff” includes all the stuff they do before school: make bed, tidy up room, do breakfast jobs, come to the family room for family scriptures on time (6:30).
2) “Practice” is just their practice on the piano (we are wimpy and only practice 20 minutes per day right now…), and our grade-school girls have to practice their math flashcards 3x each.
3) “Zone” is the part of the house they’re in charge of keeping clean and tidy – everyone is assigned an area and those areas rotate every month (family room, play room, mud room, other areas that need a quick daily clean-up). More zone information here.
4) “Reading” is that they must read by themselves outside of school for a half hour every day. When they complete their four things for the day, they get Dave or I to sign off on them.
Each week the kids have the potential to earn their age in cash from these nifty charts. That means Max, being fifteen, has the potential to make 15 bucks. Which is good money as far as I’m concerned. He has to pay for half of all of his own clothes though so he really does need it. (The kids have to pay for half of everything when they turn twelve…except for underwear, socks and Sunday clothes cause research shows they won’t buy that stuff….based on our research….the kind that errs on the side that will ensure they have something decent on Sundays and that they don’t blow other people away with stinky-ness.) Of course, every family will have to come up with an amount of money that will work for their kids and their own policy on what children will need to buy with the money they earn. But this is what works for us.
On Sunday afternoons we have “pay-day.” (Growing up we did this on Saturdays, but we can’t, for the life of us, fit that in.) We pull out the good old family bank I inherited from my family and get to work.
Dave is actually the real “banker.” I love that.
If they miss even one check-mark during the week, they only get half of their age for that week. And if they miss more than two, they get zero. We’re kinda serious business around here. But we do let them memorize one poem or scripture a week to make up for one missed mark if they need it. Here’s my daughter Elle memorizing a poem so she can make up for a missed mark:
Let’s give that little golden box a little shout-out:
Don’t you love how that opens? (The key for the lock was lost long ago.) My Dad carved that sucker for us as kids all those years ago. It says “The First National Bank of Eyrealm.” (Much more about that bank over here.) I love it.
Let’s take a look inside:
We pay the kids in cash from here each week. (And for some reason Dave got a few two-dollar-bills last time he was at the bank which Grace only realized recently are actually real money…) I know lots of families pay their kids “virtually” by tracking their earnings on a spreadsheet rather than using cash but cash is what works for us – and you’ve got to do what works for you.
3. SAVING AND SPENDING
We are huge proponents of the 10-20-70 principle which my parents taught me (give 10% to charity or your church, save at least 20%, use only 70%) and we adhere to it with a vengeance. As soon as we determine how much each child has earned for the week they calculate out how much of that they owe for their 10% church tithing and 20% savings. They put their 10% tithing tucked away in an envelope in a drawer in their bedrooms until they bring it to church. They put their 20% savings back in the bank and it’s safe in there (and earning 10% interest a quarter which adds up quite nicely!) ‘til they need it for something big like college or missions some day. We keep track of savings for each child in a check register like this (but an excel spreadsheet would work well too).
They totally help so they can have ownership of the whole deal…and it’s great for their math skills as well.
Although our oldest, Max, does these charts (with as much enthusiasm as you can imagine a 15-year-old boy would) he’s kind of on a different system because he has his own real bank account. When he gets paid for this money system, instead of having his own check register in our family bank, he makes a deposit at the bank. He automatically transfers 20% to his own savings account there and takes out 10% for tithing. He is still eligible for the high family interest in his savings account cause we want to help it grow for him. We’ll start our 14-year-old, Elle, on that system soon.
So, after all that effort trying to re-invent the wheel, here we are back at the beginning. And boy am I grateful for this system that works. Sure, we have tons more tweaks to go, and it is certainly not fool-proof by any means, but we’ve been going strong for a few months now and I’m loving it. I love that it has all the potential to really help our kids understand more about money in the long run…and savings. And giving. And working.
*** This post was originally published on the author’s blog, 71 Toes, where you can find a wealth of great mothering ideas.
If you’d like step-by-step help to guide you as you set up your own family system for teaching kids about work and money as well as a system of rules and consequences in your home, check out our “Family Systems eCourse.”