A Personal Story:Chores and Money Lessons Growing Up

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young boy, hammer, working, chores

Teaching children about money is one of the most important things a parent can do for their child. It has the potential to set them up for the rest of their lives as financially responsible adults, or if it is neglected, adults who just don’t understand why they can never get ahead financially. My parents taught me about money through household chores and this is how it unfolded.

Parents, Chores and Money

I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but my parents started teaching me about the value of money from a young age. It wasn’t your typical classroom style teaching experience where the teacher comes in and says – “Now Glen, you’re going to sit here and learn about the value of money. Pay close attention, because there will be an exam at the end of the week!”. No, it was a gradual learning exercise that started when I was a young boy.

Each week my parents set out standard chores that I was expected to complete.

Things like:

  • Making my bed every day
  • Doing the dishes and clearing the table after meals
  • Getting the mail
  • Taking the bins to the curb

My remuneration for completing these chores was $5 a week allowance. Despite the relatively easy nature of these chores, things didn’t start that smoothly…

Why I wanted Money

I think it all started the year I first went to elementary school. My whole life changed in an instant as you now had other kids to compare yourself to. Things that once didn’t matter like having the latest Nike shoes or the latest Donkey Kong game on Gameboy, were all of a sudden thrust into the lime light and were of the utmost importance to six-year-old me.

Coming home from school, I immediately propositioned my mother to go on a shopping expedition for all the items they forgot to buy me for when I started school. They remembered the books, school uniforms and school bag, but they didn’t supply me with all the “cool” toys and brand name accessories that everyone else had.

To me my generic shoes just wouldn’t do anymore, and a Gameboy was now a necessity of life. It was obvious to me, Mum and Dad would just have to go out and get me what I needed…

The Chore Rebellion

Having told my parents what I needed to be able to fit in at school, they kindly informed me that I was going to have to do chores for my money – This didn’t go down well with me at all.

You see, I was living the easy life and I was used to getting free money for nothing. Whatever I wanted was paid for by my parents and so I didn’t understand why I suddenly needed to start working for my money.

Things also weren’t helped by my overzealous grandparents who were always trying to buy the love of their firstborn grandchild with the allure of $2 coins when we visited them.

So I did what any self-respecting 6-year-old would do – I rebelled. Oh there were tears and tantrums along the way, but finally my parents won the battle. I had succumbed to their demands and was about to start completing chores for cash.

Earning a Little Extra on the Side

As I grew older my lifestyle began to inflate, $5 just wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore and I desperately needed a raise. The extra money would enable me to go to the movies or the video game arcade with my mates. These are important things to someone entering their teenage years and could mean the different between being a part of the “in crowd” or not.

I remember going cap in hand to my Mum and making my case for a modest increase in my salary from $5 to $10 a week. Looking back now I find it amusing to think I was ever going to get away with it, I couldn’t imagine going up to my boss today and asking “Hi, how would you feel about giving me a 100% increase in my wage? You see I really want to buy this boat and so that money would really help me out. Thanks mate!” – Yeah right!

Anyway, Mum and Dad offered to allow me to do other chores around the house for extra money.

Things like:

  • Mowing the lawn
  • Doing the clothes washing
  • Cleaning the back patio
  • Moping the floors
  • Cleaning the car

The catch with each of these new chores was that they were only available to me when Mum or Dad said that I could do them, and each chore had a different monetary value attached to it. I can’t remember the exact value for each chore, but I do remember that mowing the lawn paid the most amount of money, but was also the most difficult and time-consuming to complete.

By the time I wanted more money for my inflated lifestyle, I had 2 brothers that also wanted in on the act and we ended up competing against each other for the same work that was on offer. This meant that if you didn’t put your hand up first to do the job, you ran the risk of someone else cutting your grass and stealing your earning potential. Sometimes it became a bit cut throat, with offers to undercut each other for the chance to complete the work and get paid.

Alternative Employment and Board

When I turned 16 I decided that I was sick of having to fight against my brothers for work around the house, and so I ventured out and found casual work at the local supermarket. What a liberating experience that was, I was making about $7 an hour and had at least 10-15 hours a week worth of work. I had never been so rich!

It all turned south though when I finished University. Apparently there were costs associated with living at my parent’s house, who knew? I’ll never forget the day Dad told me that I would have to pay board if I wanted to continue living with them.

The charge was $50 a week, plus expenses like contributing to the internet and phone bill each month. Again there was a bit of a rebellion, but after looking at rental properties I soon realised that I was getting a good deal and accepted my father’s generous offer.

Why I think it’s Important to Teach Children about Money

I have plenty of friends who had a vastly different childhood experience to mine. Friends who were given almost everything they ever wanted by their parents, never having to lift a finger and understand how much time or effort went into being able to afford the things they were gifted. Many of these friends still live week to week with their pay, only just being able to afford food and other necessities of life.

As I am about to be starting out with my own young family, I can appreciate what my parent’s did for me and my brothers. At the time it seemed unfair and harsh, but life is harsh. I was taught the valuable lesson that you have to be willing to get down and dirty if you want to get ahead in this world and that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

There is a certain sense of achievement associated with working hard for something and I just don’t think you can truly appreciate it if you are provided everything in life.

Guest Post ByGlen who writes at Monster Piggy Bank. Glen lives in Australia and blogs about his life, mortgage debt, goals and more as he tries to strike the right balance between being frugal and living life. Glen is also on Facebook and Twitter .

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Photo Credit: 123RF

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  1. Thanks Glen! I was raised with the same chores but without the pay. I learned how to work but didn’t have much experience with managing my money so I spent it as fast as I earned it. I’m just now learning how to save. I love this post because it shows me that me and my wife is doing the right thing with our children. Thanks again!

  2. Wonderful piece, Glen! It’s important that when we say we’re “supporting our children” that we’re actually teaching them some lessons that’ll be much tougher later if we avoid them while they’re young.

  3. A parent definitely needs to look for opportunities – and then take advantage of them. That’s not always easy with our busy lives. Kidbudget has created a system for teaching money skills and creating opportunities for the parent and child to discuss all of these areas. Perhaps one of the most important things, is that parents first have to get their own finances in order. I think, parents who know how to handle money efficiently, will teach their kids the right things automatically.

    1. I think you raised a really good point there which I didn’t cover at all and that is that parents need to have their own finances in order. It is so true! Kids learn most of their money habits from their parents so you want to make sure you are teaching them the right stuff!

  4. We never got an allowance, but were expected to do our share around the house and to do well in school. Our neighbors kid’s got everything they wanted and Dad always bailed out the younger one when he often got in trouble. He ended up pretty useless in my opinion. There is a happy medium somewhere in there, but I think kids need to know that money doesn’t grow on trees.

    1. Agreed Kim, I know plenty of kids that grew up under appreciating money. Most now haven’t a clue about finances and are struggling through life.

  5. I am a firm believer in teaching my children about money. They already get paid every weekend for doing household chores. They tithe, invest, and take out a portion for spending. As long as they do the first two things, they can use the rest for whatever they want. I do this because I never learned about money. I worked as soon as I was the legal age required and had to find things out the hard way. I am making sure that they are given the proper resources so they don’t accumulate unnecessary debt, like me.

  6. I had to do things around the house as a kid but there was no allowance given… It was considered to be part of running of the house. Plus given that I was an only kid, I had to do all the girl things in the house like dishes and such, I also had the pleasure of doing the things a brother might have been doing, like raking leaves, shovelling the snow and cutting the grass…..We have 3 kids, all adult now, 2 boys and a girl. All three know the business end of a shovel and lawn mower as well as how the washer works, how to make their own meals when I’m not here and they know to clean up after themselves unless they want to feel the wrath of Mom when she comes home to a messy kitchen!!!

    1. It sounds like you run a pretty tight ship. My parents also made sure we knew how to fend for ourselves and I knew when they really wanted something done without needing to be told twice.

  7. We never got an allowance or were paid for chores. Doing your part was part of your payment for room and board. I was always jealous of the kids with $, since I didn’t get any until I started babysitting when I was 12 or 13.

    1. Honestly, I think that is fair. After all, kids aren’t cheap to keep running. Still, as an adult looking back on my childhood, I liked the way my parents ran things.

  8. My Dad must have thought child labour was common practice with the wages he paid me for chores around the house, so I also went out and got myself a job. It didn’t do me any harm in the long run though, it gave me a good work ethic. I still think 50 pence to mow a lawn that was half the size of a football pitch is out of order, thanks Dad!

  9. Lucky, I had to do all of my chores (and then wound up doing my younger sisters and brothers chores as well) and never to any allowance. I guess that was good preparation for adult life, however, because nobody pays me now for putting away the dishes!

  10. Glen, this story is great! Like you, I really had to work hard to make my $3 and $5 every two weeks from my parents. When I got my first job at age 16, it felt like a million bucks comparatively! But it really set me up to appreciate the value of hard work and a job. It’s funny, but we’re trying the same thing on our two kids now. One is going well and the other not so good!

  11. I also had chores that I had to do as a kid. When I got a little bit older, I also started picking up other jobs like mowing, grocery store, etc. I think it taught me how to be a hard worker. Now, I am looking for ways to work smarter, not harder;)

  12. It is great that your parents taught you entrepreneurship from a young age. I grew up among privileged kids and had to work for my money to keep up with them. At 15 I was making more money than their allowances, but since I had worked for it, was able to determine that all the stuff they were buying wasn’t worth the effort put into earning the money.

    1. I certainly appreciate what my parents did for me.

      Also, it is interesting how your point of view changes depending on how hard you worked for your money.

  13. Glen, you are I had a very similar experience. I was taught about money via allowance that I had to earn. I also had to get things done by 12pm every Saturday or I wouldn’t be paid. As a kid, I would wait until the last minute and many times would go unpaid, but still had to complete my chores. It taught me a lot about money and time management.

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