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Fueling Up the Family For Fun (and some cash)

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Our family room couch rarely ceases to hold my electronic-yielding children, especially in the summer. There are semi-permanent impressions of their rear ends in their favorite spots. If the wrong child lands in the wrong butt print, there is major trouble. I’m serious – like World War III kind of trouble.

I often wonder how they can hold their heads in that slumped over position for so long? To balance out my guilt of allowing them to indulge in a hobby that is sure to support any chiropractic practice in the future, we are approaching household work differently.

The idea is that in order to partake in fun family adventures, they have to FUEL UP the family first. Now, I won’t pretend that the kids were thrilled at first. Getting them to do the daily chores that keep the household going was not easy. First, they had to take notice of what actually keeps us running! However, since we have framed it in a way that has them see that, as a family, we are all empowered to do “the things” that keep us going, they seem to show a bit more investment.1nguIAEcQkY5KJT19br-x_j9_FNhtC0IjaPZ_L6dPMgYc-fHS5qIcF69xNgY9ElEcDDz_ovIMKSbTlbNx_okML03g8fQKAbLVv3YXK3OzSp-HSVPlWWmq4y-eITKOBB8bv9qvSRS

We have always believed that it is important for the kids to do work that comes with being a part of family like putting away their laundry, cleaning their rooms, taking the trash out, etc. For years that has just been an expectation.

As our kids have grown, they have made their own suggestions about how to fuel up the family (especially when they know that the future fun may include a day at that waterpark). I love it when “clean mom’s van” makes the list.

Here is where it gets tricky, as much as we want our kids to fuel up the family, we also see the value in earning money and learning to manage it. Now that our bigs are in their teenage years, we have increased the opportunity for them to earn money beyond what is expected of them in their efforts to fuel up the family. Those jobs are a hot commodity because they earn commission. That’s right, commission!


This is a brilliant money management idea created by Dave Ramsey has taught us, as parents, that just as we need to teach our kids how to do work (every child should know the right way to scrub a toilet), we also have the responsibility to teach them how to manage money. While the plan is brilliant, there is one catch: it only works if we (the parents) stick to it. Easier said than done. Why is consistency so hard?

The idea behind the approach is straightforward - there are certain expectations we have for our kids as they are a part a family who all need to pitch in- not hanging out at a bed and breakfast (think making your bed, pick up your stuff when you leave a room, etc). In our house, the theory is that Mom and Dad do a lot, but the kids are expected to also. Beyond that, there are "opportunities" for them to take on a chore that is a bit more involved and earn commission.


Obviously, there is some training involved in commission jobs. I learned that the hard way. You cannot send a 7 year old off with a broom to "sweep the deck" without giving him a few pointers about how to systematically tackle the job and achieve some measure of success in this lifetime.

I've got to be honest, the training part is way easier for my husband than it is for me (says the T.E.A.C.H.E.R.) simply because he is always patient enough to allow them to do the work and empowers them to do it to the quality that they are capable of. I, other the other hand, am a self-professed control freak and constantly live in a world where if I do it myself, it will get done quickly and right. Great parenting, eh?

While making your bed and putting your laundry away are an expectation, helping to sand and paint the dock at the cottage, raking the backyard, or painting over nail holes in the wall is a choice. It doesn’t stop at yard work.


Every other Sunday, my husband and I have a "beer and budget" meeting. The kids know this is our time to sort through our finances so they give us space. I would tell you that this time is a lot like a date for us but, who am I kidding, we are talking about money at this time = NOT romantic whatsoever. A meeting such is this is always better with beer (we have learned over the past several years).

After our budget meeting is done, it is commission pay out time! (Insert a fun "cha-ching" sound effect here). Here is how it works, the kids come to the meeting with their ledger and their three envelopes: Spend, Save and Give. You see, (I say with my proud Dave Ramsey voice) what the kids get paid for commission job is not all for them to blow at the mall or on new apps. Their income must be distributed: 45% of their commission goes to savings, 10% goes to giving and 45% is theirs to spend. At first this was really hard for the kids (and for us) but, Dave Ramsey is a genius and we listen to him because we know that in order to truly learn how to appreciate how money works in the world, we must learn that we cannot possibly just spend everything that we earn. (This is a lesson I think I am still learning).

Now, this sounds storybook perfect, right? Like I said earlier, it all depends on how well we, as adults, stick to the plan. The intention of the plan is to allow the kids to learn the value of hard work and compensation for a job well done.

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