We bought a roll of generic tickets, (🎟 style like at arcades, fairs or small theaters).
Our oldest (nearly four), earns tickets by completing chores or being especially well-behaved.
He's able to exchange his tickets for various rewards, such as extra tablet time and toys. We keep some small prizes on hand (usually things we've bought on clearance), but also let him earn towards new toys from the store.
It's definitely more successful the more we use it. We started letting him save up towards larger and larger prizes, which sometimes limits our motivation for giving tickets, because it equates to us spending money.
To resolve this, we're going to be adding in a second color of tickets to be used for things like screen time, which can be earned for a larger variety of desirable behaviors. Then the other kind, for chores, will go towards purchases.
We switched to this system after we found earning money (with a sticker chart) to be too complicated for his. We still wanted him to be able to "budget" and save.
Now, if he sees something in the store he really wants we can tell him how many tickets it costs (usually at least 2 per dollar the item costs, but it's easy to change) and how many more he needs to earn it. Sometimes he has enough for a smaller item, but we remind him that X more will get the bigger item. It's interesting to see that sometimes he will save for a more expensive purchase, and sometimes he would rather spend them immediately.
In my opinion, I think he's become better at evaluating whether or not he really wants an item, or if he's just excited about something new. He's started to get that his currency is limited, and prioritizes his purchases.
He's very good about remembering what he's saving for. If we offer him a ticket-earning chore, he does it with enthusiasm and talks about what he's going to do with his tickets.
To make it more special for him, we bought a special jar (a mason jar, because it's see through) and have him count out his totals periodically (especially before going to the store). He also has to physically hand over the tickets in order to get his prize.
You could substitute tickets for any sort of token. We used tickets because they are cheap, and also because he's been to arcades and enjoys the ticket portion of the experience. The reasons for using tokens (and not stickers or money) are:
- They're discrete, easily countable
- There's a physicality in handling them, which engages young ones
- They're not consumable/destructable (such as stickers)
- They're not a reward in and of themselves (stickers can be, because they're so fun!)
- We can adjust how many tokens it takes to earn things, so as he gets more used to earning them we can raise the "price" of