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We made a conscious decision not to give our kids much pocket money: it seemed a bad life lesson to teach that lots of free cash gets handed out on demand. So far that's been okay, and they've learned to save up if they want something expensive.

Now our eldest is a tweenager, and she's growing in independence. Along with this, her spending has gone up. It's nothing extravagant - she's not making unreasonable demands for the latest fashion or gadgets. It's just that now she's able to go out with her friends by themselves, she spends all her money with them on things like the cinema, thrift stores, drinks in cafes.

This all seems perfectly fine, but her pocket money doesn't cover it anymore and she quite reasonably wants extra.

Now we could increase pocket money but as stated, we'd prefer not to do that. So instead it seems a good idea to pay her for doing chores. It teaches a good life lesson that you have to work to earn money. But here there's a problem.

Most household chores that she's capable of doing are "things that must be done". They're not "work" per se, but the kind of everyday tasks that are part of living independently. Washing up, hoovering, cleaning the bathroom, that kind of thing.

When, in the fullness of time, she moves out, she needs to learn that other people she might live with will expect her to do these things for free. We do them for free. We'd like her to learn that they simply need to be done to maintain a good, orderly and pleasant house.

What can we do to offer her a way to earn money, and still balance these two important lessons?

(Note I have read this relevant question - Is rewarding hard work for chores with money necessarily a bad idea? - but I feel this is more specific and different enough to warrant its own entry)

  • @paparazzo at her age, that would be illegal – Bob Tway Nov 3 '18 at 9:11
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You have two parts to your question and I'll try and address both.

"Free" Chores and Pocket Money

Growing up, there were always chores I had that were just things that were expected of me. Cleaning my room, cleaning the bathroom, feeding the dog, etc. These things were never rewarded with extra cash (or anything else for that matter). It was just part of being part of the family, one of those things we did to make everyone's lives easier and part of being a responsible human being.

Getting my allowance (or pocket money) was contingent on doing these chores, so you could say I was being paid to do these. But that's just how my parents did it, you can adapt to your needs.

One other thing to consider here is how much pocket money you give to your children. I know you've said you don't want to increase it, but consider what your kids need. For example, when I was pretty young (like 7 or 8) I got less allowance than I did as a teenager. As a small kid, I had fewer reasonable expenses than I did as a teenager (I wasn't paying for my own movie tickets, food with friends, etc.). But as a small kid, there was less expected from me in terms of "free" chores.

It might be worth re-evaluating what you give your daughter and what you expect from her. It might be worth doing this exercise with her. You can teach budgeting (what you can and are willing to pay out, family finances), negotiating (if you want more money, what else will you take on?) and setting reasonable expectations.

Extra Work for Extra Cash

Much like others have stated, I was able to earn extra money by doing extra chores above and beyond what was normally expected from me. My parents had a list printed out with extra chores and how much they paid (so it was known beforehand what a chore was worth so no haggling happened). We could do any of these any time we wanted (as long as my parents said it needed doing) and they approved of the job we did (so we couldn't do a half-baked job and expect to get paid, taught us how to do a job right).

This worked well for my siblings and me. We learned how to be responsible human beings with budgeting skills and a good work ethic. Adapt to your needs.

  • This works great for us, too. My fifteen year old just cleaned out the garage, a herculean task that took him all day and for which he earned thirty dollars. Cleaning is always a great option. Weeding, also (though maybe not this late in the year) and maybe shopping, if you live close enough to a store that your tween can walk there. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Nov 5 '18 at 16:39
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Anything that is big enough that I'm tempted to hire it out is a candidate for kids extra spending money. Mowing the grass is an example - the 8 year old can earn $10.00 in about an hour of healthy supervised outdoor activity.

I do some short cash contract work. When I have work that I can subtender to my kids, I will pay them market rates. Examples are camera operator, boom grip, etc.

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Not increasing pocket money is a good idea, because it'll teach her to budget.

I recommend looking for tasks she could help with that are not part of the day-to-day maintenance of your home such as cleaning out the garage and washing and vacuuming the family car. Given her age she might be able to babysit younger kids or help neighbors with their chores for some extra money. She could arrange a garage sale or sell her old clothes to the thrift store for some extra money.

My older sister was working in a MacDonalds at 15 years old to earn her pocket money. I did one time tasks around the house and was very good at budgeting.

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