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Here’s a new use for cash bonuses: getting your 12 and 13 year old to tidy up their messy drawers. After all, money talks. But it’s a one-day offer only, so don’t miss out!
Lara and Greg Ariell are onto something. For the past couple of months, they’ve had their two boys – Nick, 13, and Jonty, 12 – hand in an invoice each week for doing jobs around the house. And it’s working for them.
Tip: Have a look at Jonty’s invoice
If you would like a copy of Jonty’s latest invoice to adapt for your own family, download it here. It’s quite simple to use: kids can just pop in how many times they’ve done a job, press F9 to refresh, and can immediately see how much they’ve earned. Nick and Jonty just print theirs and hand it in by 6pm each Sunday. Then Lara moves the money the boys have earned into their own accounts, which they access with their cash cards.
It all began with dissatisfied boys and parents alike. The boys were getting $5 a week pocket money, but it never seemed to stretch far enough. They felt that no matter how many things they did around the house, it didn’t make a difference to how much they received. They wanted real jobs that paid. And when things didn’t get tidied at home, Lara and Greg had no choice but to hold back the boys’ pocket money. But many times chores still weren’t getting done, with parents resorting to nagging.
So Lara – a CFO and accountant by profession – devised a simple, teen-friendly solution. First she lowered their pocket money to $3, which the boys would still receive if they covered basic hygiene like making their beds, putting their laundry away and unpacking their lunchboxes. Then she created an invoice for the boys to list all the extra things they could do around the house to earn more.
‘Mum said, “Write some jobs that you can do, and we’ll figure out how much we can pay you for them,”’ explains Jonty. So the boys sat down for an afternoon and started a list, trying to figure out how much a car wash ($5) or a dog walk ($2) was worth. ‘They were reasonably realistic in their costing,’ says Greg. ‘It didn’t take too long to agree on some rates.’
There seem to be three things to take into account when figuring out how much a household task should cost: the time it takes, how complex it is, and what the Ariells call the ‘ick’ factor. Cleaning a toilet and scooping dog poop have a high ‘ick’ factor, cleaning a shower is complex, and washing a car (to Greg’s high standards) takes a while. So these jobs are worth a bit more.
‘We talked through some quality standards,’ says Greg. ‘They do actually have to clean it properly. There is the expectation that they do a reasonable job.’
Of course, with all the possible jobs around the house, Lara had to do a quick calculation as to whether they could afford the new system. It would be different for other family budgets.
‘I think I worked out that if they did all of the regular jobs,’ says Lara, ‘that we would pay about $50 a week. But I would have a clean house, and I would probably pay more than that if I employed a cleaner.’
Of course, Greg points out that you have to factor in the probability of whether two teenage boys would really do every single job on the list. ‘The likelihood of us living in an immaculate place and penniless is probably quite low,’ he quips. In fact, so far the boys have never managed to do every single job on the list.
The frustration of not getting kids to do chores around the house – and the inevitable nagging that goes with it – seems to have reduced under the new regime. If no jobs get done, no money gets paid. No problem.
And how do the boys feel about it? Nick’s friends think it’s funny that his Mum makes him bill her, but in the first week he was able to make $28. ‘I think it’s better that I’m earning it,’ he says. ‘I don’t feel spoiled or anything because I am actually working for it.’
‘It’s really good, especially during the holidays,’ says Jonty, who was able to make $35 over two weeks. For him, it’s about fairness. ‘If we did heaps of jobs on the pocket money system it wouldn’t have made a difference.’
The boys are learning a lot about the value of money and earning. Their savings habits, too, are forming fast – Nick was able to put away money toward his first golf clubs, Jonty a new cricket bat.
Turns out the system is helping the boys bridge between doing chores around the house and eventually going out to get a real job. ‘It’s pretty real world,’ says Lara. ‘It’s got price, quantity, and standards. We’ve just applied those same standards here.’ And of course invoices. She’s pretty keen on teaching the boys that you need to work for things and that life is not a hand-out.
Yet it’s definitely not too much like work – this is family after all. Greg says that although it teaches work has a value, it’s good that the boys can learn that at home first. ‘I’d rather they do those jobs here, putting the rest of their time into homework and playing sport.’