Ways for Kids to Earn Money Around the House is a post by Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home.
If your kids are like mine, they love to have a little cash on hand. While we do give our children a weekly allowance (see Our Allowance System), they are often looking for ways to earn more money. My youngest enjoys a few extra dollars to buy Lego sets or, more often, candy. My daughter has her eyes on saving for big-ticket items, like a nice camera.
My problem has always been that, while I know there are lots of extra jobs that need done around the house, I can never think of them when the kids seem to want them. Here is how this usually happened at our house:
Son: Mom, I really want a new Lego set but I don’t have any money. What jobs can I do to earn money?
Me: (cutting up vegetables, keeping my eye on the pot on the stove, tripping over the dog in the middle of the kitchen floor) Ummmm. I really can’t think of anything right now. Ask me later.
And then the moment passes. I’ve lost my opportunity to get some jobs done, and he has lost interest (until the next time I am making dinner).
I finally took the time to come up with a system that I wish I had thought of years ago: our Money Makers file.
DIY Chore System for Kids to Earn Money Around the House
First, I had to really think about jobs that are useful, not just token jobs to earn a few quarters. These fall into three categories:
- regular household cleaning jobs (such as dusting and watering plants)
- extra jobs I would love to have done but seldom have the extra time to do them (such as cleaning out kitchen cabinets)
- outdoor jobs (pulling weeds, picking up sticks, etc.)
Next, I decided how much each job is worth based on the amount of work that goes into it and how much I would like someone else to do this job! Cleaning out a kitchen cabinet, for example, is low on my own cleaning priority list but something I would love to have done, so this is a $2 job. Dusting, on the other hand, is a quick and easy job for me, so it only pays 75 cents.
Then I made out a separate index card for each job that includes the name of the job, its price, and step-by-step instructions. Writing out instructions for each task took some time, but having these guidelines is essential.
While my teenage daughter could do any of the jobs without guidance, my 11-year-old son needs written instructions. These are quite detailed because, well, he is an 11-year-old boy. So, for example, here are the instructions for how to clean our glass coffee and end tables:
- Clear stuff off tables (except lamps)
- Spray lightly with Windex.
- Use one paper towel to wipe. Use second paper towel to dry.
- Use the same paper towels to clean base of lamps.
- Replace items.
I covered the cards with clear packing tape so that they can be taken along on the task without getting ruined. If you have a laminator you could use that. When a task is completed, my kids turn the card over and mark the date. When I pay them, I mark that. (I don’t always have cash available to pay immediately!)
We keep the job cards in a library card holder on the refrigerator. I initially came up with about a dozen jobs but have been adding to them as we get into all the summer jobs that need doing.
This simple system provides a constant source of income for my kids—if they choose to use it—and gets some nitty gritty cleaning jobs done around my house. You can easily use this system for any ages and adjust it as your kids get older. I’m looking forward to the day we can add lawn mowing, pruning, and weed-whacking to the list!
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This post was originally published on The Homeschool Classroom (which is now part of Real Life at Home) in June 2012. It was updated in 2016.
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Jennifer McCumbers says
What a fanstastic, simple idea! I’m going to start on this now. I’m thinking that I may add colored dots to the tops of the cards (we color code our kids) so that each child will know what is appropriate for them.
Sarah at SmallWorld says
The colored dots would be a GREAT idea!
How do your kids seperate the chores? You have a holder and its on the frige but is it whoever wants to do the chore or make money that night? I have a problem with, when i ask to set the table all 3 want to do it. they do it together but how does that help with paying them. I have very competitive kids and they always think they can do what the oldest one does. HELP!!! Thanks.
I bet a lot of parents wish they had that problem! Kids jumping at the chance to do chores! 🙂 You could just make a rule of first come, first serve. There are always other chores in the file they can do. If the biggest ticket item is always taken by the same kid, you could either make 3 big tickets, one for each kid. or make a rule that it can only be done once a week, and you have to take turns. Who wants to have their cupboards cleaned every night and have to pay $2 for it each time?
Or maybe you can make 3 seperate folders for jobs. Write out your jobs and how much they pay. Make sure each folder adds up to the same amount of money. There may only be a couple of jobs in each folder. At the end of each week, rotate fodlers. that way the same kid isn’t doing the same jobs all of the time. hope this helps.
LOVE this idea…..we have that same dinner time ritual. Or the matter might come to mind during a math assignment, too. ;D
Thank you for sharing this! That’s exactly what I needed!
That is a great idea! I would also suggest to have older kids ask neighbors (if you KNOW your neighbors, of course) if they have any yard work that needs to be done. My 8 year old son actually has 6 neighbors that he goes to every Friday and pick up their dog poop. He has made anywhere between $50-$20 dollars a week, depending on how much dog poop there is. He takes my cell phone with him and of course I know the neighbors and which neighbor he will be at. We’ve also talked about staying only outside during his job. The best thing about this, is that it was HIS idea. He said he wanted to have a fish and lizard. He’s bought the fish and continues to pay for the food and treats for his fish. He’s now saving up to buy a lizard and still has money to buy soda (his dad reminds me that it is HIS money so he should be able to treat himself) and video games. I’m so proud of him! Can you tell? haha! We do have chores for each child (cleaning bedroom, making bed, saying prayers, brushing teeth, feeding pets and then each child is assigned a room to pick-up and slightly clean a bit) and they get paid for their chores every week.
Kathy Feusse says
Would you be willing to share all of your money making jobs as a way to jump start my list?
Sarah at SmallWorld says
Sure, Kathy! Our current jobs are:
water outdoor plants in pots
pick up sticks
clean dining room windows and door
mop kitchen or dining room floor
clean living room windows and door
water indoor plants
clean baseboards and chair rail in dining room
clean a kitchen drawer
clean a kitchen cabinet
windex coffee and end tables
dust living room furniture
clean a bathroom drawer
Hoovering/vacuuming is also a good one!
This sounds like a great idea. However, My dudes will be 5 (July) & 4 (August). I have seen lots of post lately about chores for kids, but they are all for much older kids. My recent frustration has been with the Toy Ransom Box. I could not find chores that would fit their ages to reward them with earning a said toy back. Suggestions (and instructions) for younger kids would be much appreciated!
Some chores that my kids did at that age: fold towels, wipe the table, pick up sticks outside, pull weeds, dust low shelves, clean baseboards. That is a hard age; sometimes you’ll be doing something and think, “My child could do this!” You may have a short list soon!
Elle, here are two posts that might be helpful:
I have 4 kids and have taken away thousands of toys! For them to earn back their toys we had them, at those ages, put away their own laundry in the correct drawers, put away the silverware, clean their bedroom, dust the TV, wash the table, wash the baseboards (not the best, but at least they feel like they earned their toy back), clean up the toys throughout the house. As they get older, it gets easier to find chores for them. My son is 6 and his chore is to bring in the trash cans, from the road, on garbage day. Another way for them to earn back a toy or a privilege is if they do something good like sharing or doing something the first time they are told. Hope this helps.
My four year old wipes the stair banister with wet cloth, wipes off light switches, tells me 5 things he’s thankful for, wipes baseboards with a dryer sheet (dusting and providing a dust repellent, supposedly), dances for a few minutes, or swiffs a small room (not that well, but he enjoys it and I see it as training). Just off the top of my head…
Ann Marie says
My kids at that age would clean doorknobs, wipe down appliances, refill toilet paper rolls, empty bathroom trash cans, wash walls, wash doors, spot clean the floors, help fold/put laundry away, wipe dining room chairs, clean kitchen trash can(it always has spilled food on it…), wipe light switches…
A Real Housewife In Houston says
Thanks for this post. I’ll definitely be using this in the future!
Christy @ Raising Knights says
Great minds think alike! Maybe I should start posting more stuff on my blog. haha
I created a moveable chore chart on an open file folder, using six library pockets and index cards. There are “to do” and “done” pockets for two of my younger boys. At the bottom of the chart are two extra pockets – one holds extra chore cards that don’t get done every day (e.g., water plants) and the other holds chores that earn money. I did the same thing as you – chore, $, details. They have to do their regular chores before they are able to do a money-earning one (each can be done 1x/wk) and I am going to write the date on the back to keep track.
Kids, especially of the male variety, tend to do better with visual and moveable systems that help them see progress. That’s why workboxes are such a hit with boys.
Jessica VanDerVeen says
I love this idea – I may even try to do it so that I put money into savings when I do the chores, since I live alone right now. Is there any way to get a copy of all of your note cards and stuff so I have somewhere to start? It’s a little overwhelming know where to begin and how much to “charge”.
zoey mays says
I would like to earn money around my house & my grampa & gramma’s house to but i don’t know what to do about it at all.
I don’t suppose you have the printable to this (as in the task, instructions, and the dollar amount) that you could share with us? Yes….I’m that lazy.
Angie Kauffman says
Unfortunately, since everyone has different cleaning tasks in their house, different steps they would want done for the same task, and they are willing to pay different amounts for the same job (or not pay at all), it would be a mammoth task to try to offer up all of the options that people might want. I totally understand the desire to be able to just grab it and print it though! This might be a pretty tedious task to write all of the steps for every cleaning task you would want kids to work on. Perhaps you could start writing out just a few and then work from there.
Although this is a great system, I do not find it plausible to have our children earn money for doing chores. Doing chores is an equal responsibility for all household members and in adulthood they will not be paid for cleaning up after themselves and keeping their own homes tidy. I would like to figure out a way to implement this idea for something like behaviours or additional work outside of chores as a reward system. Nicely put together!
Reanna, I agree about the child being a part of the household responsibilities. We do not pay them for doing their regular chores, and we don’t give an allowance. However, I am willing to pay my children for doing MY chores. I think doing it this way is a great way to teach that we must earn our money, and we are all a part of the household at the same time.