Training Your Children Financial Discipline

30 01 2011

Money, sex, and kids.  Those are the top three issues married couples fight about.  I will not speak on the other two, but money is one thing my husband and I rarely disagree on.  We are both very disciplined financially, and we live under a simple financial motto, “if we can’t afford to pay for it in full right now, we can’t afford it.”

We do not own debt, except for our home.  We save regularly in a joint account and contribute to accounts for both our sons.  We invest in several retirement accounts, stocks, CDs, and money market accounts.  We give generously (18.5% of our gross income in 2010).  We pay extra on our mortgage each month.  We own all our vehicles. We take amazing international trips every year.  Our children attend an exceptional private school.  We live in a nice home with nice furnishings.  We want for nothing.  All this on less than a 6-figure household income.

We are determined to pass this lifestyle on to our children. 

“Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
-Proverbs 22:6

Beginning at age five, we gave our oldest son, Caleb, an allowance of $1.00 per week.  He was expected to do basic chores around the house for that money.  We also encouraged him to put some money into special envelopes for giving and long-term saving.  At five, he could not get a job, but he was still old enough to begin learning about financial discipline.

While we guided his saving, spending, and giving, we did occasionally let him make some unwise decisions on how he chose to spend his money.  Tears often flowed when he realized after-the-fact that he spent his money foolishly.  I’d rather he learn these lessons now at the Dollar Store than twenty years from now buying a ridiculous new car he can nary afford and having to live paycheck-to-paycheck, stressing over how to feed his family and pay the utility bill.

Caleb turned eight two months ago, and we decided to revamp how we did his allowance.  After several discussions, my husband and I settled on the following.

We continued the $1.00 per week, but increased his regular chores which now include the following.

  • Helping to set and clean off the dinner table.
  • Cleaning and straightening up his room.
  • Doing his and his brother’s laundry once per week—washing, drying, folding, and putting away everything. 

Caleb now receives the opportunity to earn extra money each week by doing extra chores.  We pay him at the end of the month for any extra work he’s done.

  • Each extra load of laundry—towels, rags, mom’s/dad’s clothes—receives 50¢ per load.  Again, he has to wash, dry, fold, and put everything away.
  • Each room he dusts, vacuums, and wipes the windows earns 50¢ per room.
  • Each school lunch he makes earns 5¢ per lunch.
  • Any extra jobs he does above and beyond these could potentially earn him some money as well:  helping to wash and clean the cars, cleaning the blinds or floor boards, helping to clean out the garage, etc.


Caleb doing the laundry.

Caleb doing the laundry.

We keep a very simple chart (Download Allowance/Chore Chart) posted on our refrigerator so Caleb can track his progress easily.  He simply marks a check in the box for each chore he completes.  We allow him to decide each week which extra chores, if any, he wants to do.  Caleb can always choose to say no, but once he commits to something, he must do it.

 As Caleb grows older, taller, and stronger, we will add other required chores and optional opportunities to his chart.

  • Cleaning bathrooms.
  • Doing the dishes.
  • Cleaning out the dishwasher.
  • Yard work—mowing, mulching.

So what does all this teach an 8-year-old?

  • Responsibility.  I know far too many teens who go off to college never having done a load of laundry, washed a dish, or cleaned a room on their own.  My sons will know how to take care of themselves when they are on their own, and they will know how to bless their future wives by being able to handle any household chore.
  • Hard work pays off, quite literally.
  • Basic math skills—addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions.  Several times a week I find him studying his chart and calculating how much he’s already earned and figuring how much he still needs to do to earn his goal.  (This month his goal was $10 which, sadly for him, he had to pay us back for accidentally breaking some shower curtain rings—another great lesson in responsibility.) 
  • Time management.  A load of wet clothes that stays in the washing machine all afternoon while he’s off playing will begin to reek and will have to be re-washed.

We are still in the early stages of this system, but so far, so good.  Of course, the best resource for teaching your children financial responsibility is for the parents to practice it themselves.  Stay tuned for next week’s post on how to start a budget.  Other posts in this series on financial discipline will include giving, getting out of debt, and any other topics on financial discipline you are interested in.

I would love for you to share your thoughts and ideas on teaching children financial responsibility or any questions you have.




3 responses

5 02 2011
Budgeting for Beginners « To Kick a Pigeon and Other Musings

[…] is the second post in a short series on financial management.  The first post was on Training Your Children to be Financially Responsible and how to set up a chore chart/allowance system.  My next post after this will be on […]

14 02 2011
Giving to God (first, last, or not at all?) « To Kick a Pigeon and Other Musings

[…] is my third post in a short series on financial discipline.  You may want to read through Training Your Children to be Financially Disciplined and Budgeting for Beginners before proceeding on this post about […]

25 01 2012
Developing a Servant’s Heart « To Kick a Pigeon and Other Musings

[…] If I want my children to be financially responsible adults, I must set the right example with how I spend my money.  Do we live in debt, or do we purchase only what we can afford to pay for in full with cash?  Do we use our financial resources for selfish gain, or do we choose to honor God by giving back to His kingdom work a portion of what He has given us?  Caleb will be the first to tell you he didn’t initially like the idea of having to stash away some of his money for Saving and Giving.  He will also be the first to tell you now that he’s seen how that money can be used to bless others, he is completely on board with the plan we set up for him. The plan:  Caleb puts $1 away into his Giving Envelope and $1 into his Saving Envelope for each $10 he receives through his allowance, extra chores, or gifts.  Since we began this financial discipline system for him a little over a year ago, he’s amassed about $30 in each.  This was his first major Giving project.  (Read more about How to Train Your Child in the Ways of Financial Discipline.) […]

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