Household, Kids, Parenting

Kids, Chores and Allowances

I did some actual CARDIO at the gym yesterday (the stairmill) after my shoulders/triceps workout. Crazy, I know, because I’m not usually big on traditional cardio.

While I climbed stairs, I listened to this recent The Mom Hour episode about household chores.

It got me thinking about a couple of things:

#1- It would be interesting to track my own “household duties” for a week, as they did. (Just jot down every time you do a household chore, see what it adds up to.)

#2- I wonder if any man on the planet would enjoy listening to this episode. Hahaha. I think my husband would rather listen to almost anything other than two people systematically going through their week, talking about how they did dishes and laundry one day, and shook out an area rug the next. Like, I don’t think he’d listen to that if they paid him. 😆

#3- Maybe they just didn’t fully cover this in the episode, but it seemed like perhaps their kids’ loads were a little light? (in my opinion) Neither has super young kids. Some of the tasks they repeatedly mentioned seemed very appropriate to start delegating. (Not trying to be judgey- this is different for every family/ household. Just something that crossed my mind as I listened.)


Here’s our current breakdown of “chores” for the kids.

*We’ve had this exact same chore regimen for the past 3 years or so, since the boys were ~9-10 years old, at least. Probably even younger, honestly. It’s been a looooong time with not many changes to this routine around here. They are currently 12 and 13, though, for reference.

Daily (both):

  • Make bed every morning/ straighten rooms
  • Music practice at least 20-30 minutes (*Not really enforcing for Asher now that he quit piano! But Ethan does piano still. We can be lax on “strictly” enforcing this, at times, though, depending on what’s going on. It varies.)
  • Clear their plates after eating/ load into dishwasher (or wash their own dishes, if dishwasher is full of clean dishes).
  • They are supposed to help clean up their bathroom each morning and night (wipe sink, etc.), but this one doesn’t always happen as it should….

Weekly: (By end of day Saturday. Sometimes we extend to Sunday)

  • “Deep” clean their rooms (straighten, dust, vacuum, empty garbage).

Then we have some other main weekly chores that they alternate, on a monthly basis. So, one kid does “Set A” every week for a whole month and the other does “Set B”, then they swap the next month.

These include:

Set A:

  • Clean downstairs bathroom (*every other week). A full clean. Toilet, bathtub, floor, sink, etc.
  • Straighten our “jackets and shoes” area at the front door. (We do not have a mudroom. Instead, we have a coat hook rack by the door where they hang jackets and backpacks. So, this chore involves removing extra hoodies that accumulate and putting them away in rooms, putting any extra shoes left out on the mat AWAY in the closet, checking sports backpacks for stuff that needs to get tossed, etc.)
  • Take out the garbage and recycling on Wednesday night. (Involves going around the house and gathering all garbage from smaller bins, replacing bags, taking bag out to big bin, rolling bins to the curb.)

Set B:

  • Clean the upstairs bathroom (the boys’ main bathroom)- *every other week
  • Clean out the van. (Declutter, wipe down surfaces, shake out or rinse floor mats, vacuum the van out with our shop vac.)

The van is a bit larger job, so that one balances out the relatively easier jackets/shoes + garbage chore. (In the winter, the van job tends to slide off a bit, honestly. But this is “the plan”.)

I keep this little list in the kitchen drawer, to keep straight “whose turn it is” for each month.

This is it for their “scheduled” chores.

They also unload the dishwasher whenever I ask them to, and they each put away their clean laundry. (Ivan does all the laundry. We’ve toyed with having the boys do their own, but we feel it is more efficient to combine our laundry at this point vs. having them run multiple separate small loads just for their stuff. Ivan is also super particular about how his laundry is done. And that is why he does it himself!!! I have rarely washed a load of clothes OR folded any in….probably the 15 years we’ve been married.)

*I do wash the towels and sheets and any cleaning rags. I will enlist the boys to strip their own beds and throw those in and re-make beds, as needed. No real schedule there.

Oh! And the boys have also taken over cutting the grass for Ivan. The boys have been alternating turns. We got a nice new mower last year which makes it a breeze. It takes ~1 hour or a little less to mow our yard. Asher still likes to complain though. They help with other yardwork “as requested”. Always cheerfully. 😉

I wish I could say they always do ALL of these things, with no prodding or reminders. But that’s not true. They also complete these to varying levels of satisfaction, in my opinion. Sometimes they “half-@$$” them. 😑And then we have to discuss workmanship/ quality and have them re-do certain things….. It’s a process.

But, hopefully they are learning something. If nothing else, I rarely ever have to take out the garbage OR clean bathrooms!! (We have 3 baths- the boys cover two, and Ivan always cleans the master bath. Before you think I’m some kind of lady of leisure, know that I still do PLENTY of other stuff, trust me. Maybe that’s another post.)

Payment/ Allowance

Last note: We do “pay them” to do these chores, kind of. It’s more of just an allowance, loosely tied to an expectation that they help around the house. Allowances can be controversial, but we are fans of them. Our boys have had an allowance since they were little, so they can start learning to manage their own money early on.

We have a direct auto transfer of $5 per week from our checking account to each of their own Capital One Money debit card accounts. (So they get about $20/month from us, total. We haven’t changed this in a long time. It may need to be looked at soon, as they get older/ start teen jobs/ start paying for more of their own things…we’ll see.)

They each have their own debit card and have for…at least 3 years now? It is SO MUCH EASIER than paying them in cash. And, it makes 100% more sense. Because inevitably, if we happen to be out somewhere and they want to buy something, their cash is at home in their drawer, not out with us. But I keep their debit cards in my wallet! So they are always with me and always handy. 😉 No excuses, no “I’ll pay you back”, etc. I just pull out their card and they are good to go. (We can keep eye on balances together in the app.)

The rule is supposed to be that if they miss a chore, it’s a $1 deduction per chore (I can easily just transfer $1 (or more) back from their account to mine on the Capital One app). But in reality, we don’t often deduct unless we have an extreme grievance with their work. 😉 I LOVE being able to transfer money back and forth from them though- say, if we buy something they want online and agree that they’ll pay half…. We can just transfer the $20 or whatever quickly in the app from them to us. Highly recommend getting your kids their own debit cards!!

What chores do your kids do? Do they get an allowance? This seems to work pretty well for us, overall, but I’m always open to new ideas!

Daily Gratitude:

I am grateful for Ethan having had a really fun time at my parents’ house. He’s home and was OFF TO WORK today by 8 am!! First day on the job.

Ready to be a “corn roguer”. Ivan picked up this very lightweight, light-colored long-sleeved shirt for him super cheap on sale. It will get ruined, but hopefully will protect from the sun while still being breathable. I think he’ll need long pants (to avoid “corn rash”, apparently), but he wanted to try shorts today… Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, check!

18 thoughts on “Kids, Chores and Allowances”

  1. I don’t have kids, but I think the payment/allowance question is very interesting and I thought it was riveting reading how you do it. It seems like quite a juggling act to juggle their finances, as well as your own! I’m not sure I would have patience for that, although the fact that it is auto-deducted is helpful.

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    1. Haha, I probably made it sound more complicated than it is. We’ve had the auto-transfer for allowance set for years now with no changes. Occasionally we pull up the app to see what their account balances are, if they want to buy something larger, to make sure they can cover it. But the boys don’t really spend that much yet. They always have a pretty good idea of approximately what their available balance is at all times. Both have >$100 in there usually, if not more, so if they want to buy an ice cream cone, they don’t even have to check the balance first.

      We do transfer bigger amounts now and then if they owe us for something we paid for (for them- like Asher just bought a scooter. We used our credit card with rewards plus just ease of ordering, but then he paid us back). But that’s not too often, really.

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  2. ha, I fully deleted that Mom Hour ep. Admittedly . . .just sounded boring. I’m even bored thinking about what I do (and I do less than most I am pretty sure). My kids probably need to do more, too.

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    1. Hahaha, yeah, I can see that! That podcast is one I definitely pick and choose on- some topics just aren’t relevant or interesting to me.

      I do think it’s kind of interesting to peek into other people’s lives in this area. Although, I find it hard to really compare on household stuff… depends so much on the situation. Like, who is home more, if there is any hired help, is there a dog involved, lol… I guess we all have to do the same main jobs (though some people also care more about some things than others, too..) , but there seem to be infinite ways to accomplish it all….

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  3. I listened to the episode, too! I am sure my husband would be bored to TEARS by the episode! But I don’t mind that slice of life kind of thing. I really like the week of real-life meals best. But it was interesting to hear about the cadence of their chores/who does what/etc. Every family is so different.

    Our kids are too young for chores but we have Paul help pick up toys. We can sometimes get lax about doing that, especially now that we are going outside after dinner. They will often play for a bit before dinner and make a mess in the basement but then we forget about it since it’s out of sight/out of mind. That’s the extent of what he does, though. I did not have an allowance growing up, but Phil did. I did A TON of chores. I remember folding laundry for the entire family which was quite the job in a family of 7 people! At that point, my oldest brother was likely at college since he’s 10 years older than me, and my other brother worked for my parents company during the summer. So my older sister and I were given chores to do each week and I also had to mow our 3 acre lawn which I loathed!! I have the most intense memories of chores from the summers. During the schoolyear, I remember having a list of chores to do on Saturday morning which included cleaning our room and a number of other things around the house. My mom is the most neat, anal person ever. Like you could eat off her floors. I just don’t have the bandwidth to have a house that is as clean as hers. And Phil does all of our cleaning now since he won’t re-hire a cleaning service so he could avoid the chore but chooses to keep doing it for the sake of saving money! I try to limit my “so are you ready to re-hire a cleaning company?” comments but it takes some real discipline to not say it more often!

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    1. It sounds like you really did a lot!!! You must have been very “obedient” to do all that if your parents weren’t even home. I feel like I still have to do some overseeing of the boys’ chores. Getting better now than before, but still a work in progres sometimes.

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      1. You’d have to know my mom to see how this was accomplished. 😉 She would call to check in on our progress and then there was a thorough check when she got home and you did not want to get a ‘talking to’ if you didn’t do something or didn’t do a good enough job!!

        But I guess I was an upholder from a young age and hated to disappoint people, especially if I was going to get yelled at if I didn’t do something…

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  4. your kids do soooo much! mine are so spoiled and I keep failing to enforce because we the adults also don’t do any. well…. need to think about this more carefully. good ideas the ones you’ve implemented.

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    1. Your situation is tricky!! I’ve never lived in a culture or situation where I haven’t needed to always do all my own housework/ chores. We’ve never even had a house cleaner. I guess I assume that as adults, my boys will need to be responsible for most of the same things we are now, so I feel motivated to make sure they learn these skills. I can see how it would be different though in a different culture, where hired help is more the norm! Maybe your girls could help the helper sometimes??

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      1. Hahaha they do but not consistently. Instead of doing because they have to, they are doing as a favor, totally wrong!!! 🙂

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  5. We just started using the Greenlight app/debit cards for our big kids (10 and 12) and they do get an allowance although we don’t really tie it to chores. We stopped/forgot allowance for years during covid and recently started it up again as they are going out more with friends and want to buy things. It’s really easy to use and track their spending and how much they have in their accounts, but there is a fee associated with it. They get .50/year old (so 12yo gets $6/wk). The 6 year old doesn’t get an allowance yet! I think we started around 8 for the other 2, but my youngest doesn’t seem ready to manage a debit card yet, and definitely can’t keep track of cash.

    Our kids do a decent amount of chores – every day one kid empties the dishwasher in the morning (usually one of the boys (6 and 10) because they are up first). My bigger 2 alternate who does the dishes/cleans the kitchen after dinner every night (this was a LONGGGG process to get them to the point of being able to actually do this and is still a work in progress that requires a lot of checkins and feedback especially for my 10 year old). The oldest ‘babysits’ quite a bit now that she’s 12 and did a babysitting class. The older 2 fold and put away their own laundry (I HATE!!!!!!!!!! this task and offloaded it years ago) -the 6 year old is starting to do this now too. They clean up their rooms/bathroom whenever we tell them to. The 10 year old is learning to mow the lawn (he asked to learn) so may take that over soon – we have a tiny lawn so that is not a big chore. There are certain tasks that if they do it, it’s above and beyond and they’ll get paid extra – like weeding (we don’t have a lot of grass in our yard, but we DO have a lot of weeds) or deep cleaning an area in the house. I think that’s about it! The big 2 also practice their instruments probably 5x/week but I don’t really count that as a chore necessarily.

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    1. Check out Capital One Money!!! No fees at all and it’s been great!!

      You sound really similar in terms of what your kids do. I totally know what you mean about the long process to get them doing things the right way. I have spent a LONG time working to get them more independent with the chores- as in, I want them to know they have a, say, Saturday 5 pm deadline and figure out how to plan ahead to make sure they get their stuff done before the deadline, without me asking!! (Sometimes if they have a game or swim meet, they will say “I didn’t have time!” When in reality, they sat on video games in the morning BEFORE the game, or could have worked ahead Friday night….). So we have struggled with this one. If I just tell them to go do their chores at a certain time, that usually works fine. They do them with minimal complaints and usually do an okay job. But I have it in my head they should be capable of managing it all more themselves, and that I shouldn’t need to direct them so much. maybe I’ve been unrealistic? I feel like it’s getting better now, finally? but still not fully there. They just would rather NOT do the chores, obviously!!

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  6. A helps with laundry and is responsible for unloading the dishwasher (90% of the time). They both have to clean their rooms, but it’s not incredibly neat. Every month A and I will deep-clean hers together. L’s gets messy but it’s very superficial as he doesn’t have much stuff.
    L collects all the main garbage cans and takes them to our storage room.
    Aside from that, there is not much structured work they do regularly. It’s more things we need help with (clean the bathroom this week or help vacuum the car) in the moment so their chores are at least 50% spontanous. Honestly, it just feels a bit too much for me to oversee regular chores right now and I can’t think of much else I’d want to outsource to them exclusively? Also, L is only 7, so this will change as he gets older.
    Situationally, the kids know how to do a lot. I’ll ask them to take a full laundry basket downstairs, or ask Levi to vacuum under the table a few times a week and they mostly do these things without complaining.
    A started getting an allowance at 10. This is not tied to chores or behaviour. When we came up with our plan I was VERY insistent I did NOT want to be able to hold their allowance money over their head as a “If you don’t get X, you won’t get your allowance.”
    They get how old they are in money form (so L doesn’t actually get anything yet – just things like birthday money or, for example, during renovations last year we would pay them $.25 for each nail they found on the driveway after a major demolition. I paid out about $15 total which is a lot less than a new tire!). A started off at $10/month, and is now up to $11/month.
    At $10, she got $7 for spending however she wants, $2 dollars went into her savings account, and $1 goes to charity. Now she’s 11, with her $11, she gets the extra $1 for spending money. She also doesn’t have to give to charity or save birthday money, for example.
    I haven’t thought too much about systems – I didn’t have any allowance as a kid – but I’ve enjoyed how simple ours is?! Hopefully it’s teaching her a few positive lessons about savings, giving to others, and also about the joys of getting some independence in making choices about what she buys. She actually LOVES to spend money on giving gifts, so I’d say about 60-70% of her money goes toward getting things for other people.
    A is still pretty young, so at this point her spending money gets paid out in cash, she donates to charity in cash, and then the savings I handle digitally.

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    1. THANKS for sharing your set up!! This was so interesting.

      I feel like I probably made ours sound a bit more complicated than it all really is, too. Ours is pretty ho-hum at this point, as we’ve been doing the same routine for years now. Also, to be honest, we aren’t always super strict about enforcing every little thing. I’d say our main focus for them is usually cleaning the bedrooms, and the every other week bathroom cleaning. The garbage usually happens, too. But the others, like the jackets/ shoes and the van cleaning, sometimes get overlooked. We also do a lot of just asking them to help with things if we need help.

      I hear you on the allowance piece. At first I kind of did like the idea of tying the money to the jobs, ONLY because I feel like in “real life”, if I don’t do my job, I won’t get paid- or at least not for long. So I kind of liked the idea of teaching them that work quality IS directly tied to money. But in reality we don’t usually deduct money if they don’t do a chore. We are more likely to say something like, “Yes, you can go to your friend’s house this afternoon, but not until your room/ bathroom/ whatever is cleaned.” (if it’s a weekend/ chore day). This is more effective, anyway, than them losing $1 from their debit account! (they have enough now that $1 isn’t much to get excited about… They’d probably say, ok, go ahead and take the dollar back and I just won’t do the chore. HA.)

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  7. This was really fascinating to read – thank you for posting! I always find it helpful to hear how other families handle chores. I really like how your boys do a combination of chores which are for their own spaces and for the common family spaces. I’ve been trying to impress on my kids that chores is part of being a good family member, but sometimes they get really petty and say that it’s not their mess, or that something was left there by their sibling, etc., etc…. and then it becomes a huge struggle to explain to them why they should still help clean it up. I feel like part of my wanting the kids to get in good house habits is that I don’t want them to be the housemate in college who doesn’t know how to use a toilet brush or when to take the trash out.
    At our house, the oldest (10) is the only one who really does chores. She helps clean up after dinner (clears and wipes down table, helps package and put away leftovers, sweeps the floor), folds and puts away her laundry, and has to pick up the play room before the cleaners come. The five year old is supposed to put away the silverware from the dishwasher, dry the pots and pans when I’m doing dishes, and take the kitchen laundry down to the laundry room. The two year old usually does the five year old’s chores because the five year old whines and refuses to do them. For what it’s worth, the five year old is a boy and I worry that I’m contributing to the patriarchy by letting his sister do his chores, but the two year old loves doing chores, so I tend to just let her do it.
    The ten year old gets an allowance in theory, but really it’s a tally on an Excel spreadsheet that my Husband tracks for her. I can’t even remember how much she gets. The debit card system you use sound pretty great, though. I’ll have to look into that!

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    1. 100% agree on your whole first paragraph!! Mine ALSO can get very petty about things and will say, “Well, that’s not my mess.” or “That’s not my dish”. Drives me nuts!! I always retort back, “Well, I’m not going to eat this whole pan of food I’m making, so maybe I should just cook for myself, then.” Or some other equally mature comeback. HAHA. I also feel pretty motivated by the idea of not wanting my kids to be the ones in college who have no idea how to do anything!! Who can’t cook, or clean, or tie a trash bag. I think about this often. Also, the idea of them being a future husband motivates me…I despise the idea of them sitting back and being some kind of dumb helpless guy who doesn’t contribute equally in the household. Not on my watch!!

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  8. Why are allowances controversial? I think they’re a great tool to teach kids to handle their own money (and even better if you can tie it to a debit card these days and teach them how to responsibly use them).

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    1. Well, I’ve heard some controversy in the past more surrounding the idea of paying kids to do chores. I think some people feel that kids should contribute to the household just because it’s part of life, part of helping the family, etc., and that they shouldn’t need to be paid for helping around the house.

      I don’t really have a strong stance on that either way. I mean, we would make our kids help out regardless, because I want them to understand that it takes a lot to run a household!! And we just expect that they will contribute, even if say, we couldn’t afford to give them an allowance.

      But on the other hand, it sometimes feels weird to me to think of just giving them an allowance every week, totally free for all, no strings attached at all, either… especially because we already pay for so much stuff for our kids!! We buy their clothes, they do lots of activities, we “treat” them often to ice cream and whatnot. So I guess I sort of feel we have loosely combined both- they get an allowance, and they are expected to do chores, but it’s not like, “ok, you cleaned the bathroom, thanks- here’s $5.” I feel we “kind of” pay them to do chores, as in it’s part of the understanding that if they will receive an allowance, they will also need to contribute and do chores and other things that are expected of them. But it’s not a direct “pay per chore” situation, either.

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