I've discussed this loosely on various message boards and since most of my friends are familiar with this blog, I figured I'd discuss it in depth here.
For awhile, I've been debating whether to pay my son for doing his chores. If I do, how do I determine what he gets paid? And shouldn't he do chores simply because he's part of the family? And if he does do chores as part of the family, should I pay him an allowance? Should he get an allowance for doing nothing?
After thinking things over and talking things over with the gals over at Homeschooling Moms, I have come up the following system. (If anyone would like sample documents of my system, just let me know and I'll pass them on along).
The system I have come up with fondly called The Just-Like-Dad Pay System and is loosely based on how my husband gets paid. My son has a list of chores that he does because he is a part of the family (keeping his room cleaning, scooping out the litter box, taking out the trash and generally picking up after himself). After he has done these, he can work on the chores that he can get paid for (these chores are usually ones that I would do once a week anyway. He can choose to do them and get paid or not to do them and not get paid). His 'work day' runs from 7 am to 3 pm. This means that he has from 7 o'clock in the morning until 3 o'clock in the afternoon to do his chores (with the exception of trash which needs to be taken out after dinner and dinner dishes, if he chooses to do them).
I thought he might get tricky and try to do one of the chores more than once, so I put a cap on each chore that he could get paid for. For example, he has the opportunity to get paid for making his bed -- a chore on which we don't put a lot of emphasis -- seven times (one for each day of the week). Dishes, he has an opportunity to get paid for doing them fourteen times (lunch and dinner dishes; his sister does the breakfast dishes). However, for a chore like vacuuming, he can only get paid twice.
Tax was an idea I got from a friend and it actually worked out great. I have put a cap on how much I'm willing to pay my son each week, so I simply divided the number of times he could do all of his chores by the amount I was willing to pay him. This gave a 'per chore' figure. To make adding easier for him, however, I rounded these figures the nearest dime. Since I was rounding up, my figure went over the figure I had capped to pay him. I subtracted the difference and figured out the percentage of tax that I would take out during each pay period. (It just so happened that it worked out to be pretty much what he would have to pay if he was older and working in the real world).
I will deposit this money into an account and at the end of the year, he will get a 'tax return'. I've stipulated (and we both signed a contract backing this up), that he would save at least 10% of his pay each pay period (my husband gets paid biweekly, so this is how I've chosen to pay my son). He must do this with his tax return money as well. 10% must go into his bank savings account. The rest he can do with what he wishes (within reason, of course).
For a 10 year old boy, I figured waiting twelve months for a 'pay off' was a pretty long time, so I decided to set up a short term savings goal with him. In his contract, he has agreed to work with me in setting up a short term goal that he must save up for. Currently, he wants to renew a magazine subscription ($10). Depending on how much he saves, he could reach this goal very quickly. The turn over for this goal would be fast and he would have a concrete idea of why it's important to save for the things you want.
At the end of the year (Christmas time), I have stipulated that he may pull out half of his savings to use for Christmas presents. (What I have not told him, but did run by my husband, is that we will matching him dollar for dollar up to $50).
In order to keep track of all of this, I have printed out 'time cards' for the kids (my daughter currently has a similar system, but being that she's only five, she just have to save 10%. She's not taxed - yet.) Each time the children complete a chore, they must come to me and I must sign off on their time cards. At the end of the week, we'll add the totals and I will know (they will know, too) how much they are getting.
I've very excited about this project. The learning scope of a project like this is endless. The kids don't know it, but we're hoping to go to Disney early next year. As the time draws nearer, we will discuss a souvenir allowance with the kids and explain to them, if they want more to spend on souvenirs, they must save for it.
Today was our first day implementing the new system. My daughter immediately set to work doing two of her chores (she has four total that she can get paid for). My son did his laundry and made his bed but has declined to earn any more money. I'm not too worried about this. The system is simple -- you don't work, you don't get paid. The chores that he doesn't get paid for are the chores that need to be done daily, so I'm not concerned with the house becoming a pig sty. I suppose if there is a hole in my system and he starts abusing it, I'll have to deal with it...but right now, I'm just going to sit back and watch what happens. I suspect peer pressure will get the better of him when he realizes his five year old sister is making more than he is.