Monday, November 10, 2008

Family Economic System: Chore Charts & Kid Bucks

My husband Matt and I have had enormous success in a rewards system we instituted close to two years ago. It has been so successful that I have shared it with friends and neighbors and family members and they have all loved it. Because it's gotten such rave reviews, I thought it was something I ought to share. I have to thank my clever hubby for this one, though. I can't take full credit. Kid Bucks were his original idea and have evolved over time with input from both of us and from our children.

We all know that children respond better to rewards than to punishment. Any parent with experience knows this. As parents, Matt and I tried to come up with a rewards system that would motivate and encourage our children. "Kid Bucks" were our answer for our family.


Children do chores. Most are the same every week, while a few chores get rotated. At the end of the week, children are "paid" on a sliding scale based on how many chores they completed and marked off on their charts. They are paid in "Kid Bucks" equaling as much as $5 in "real" money each week. These Kid Bucks can be used to purchase treats or privileges, or traded in for cash to spend on something pre-determined and approved by Mom & Dad.


My children, like most children, have chores. I have organized these chores into charts that are laminated and we mark them with a dry erase marker. The rotating chores are on cards that are laminated and have a little Velcro dot on the back. These chore cards Velcro to the bottom of the kids' charts so they know what their job is that week. We switch them every Sunday. In addition, there are many things that are NOT on their chore charts that they are expected to do. For instance, my kids empty the dishwasher after it runs and take the dog out every morning. Not everything we ask them to do is on their charts. :)


AM LIST & PM LISTS are lists of basic start-of-the-day or end-of-the-day chores. I made these picture lists so the kids could tell what was on them before they learned to read. These lists are (again) laminated and posted by their bedroom doors.

And yes, they have to finish everything on these lists before marking that box on their chore chart(s). These lists are created so that when they have completed them, they are ready for the day OR ready for bed. These chores typically take less than 20 minutes (if kids stay on task, of course).

MORNING JOBS & EVENING JOBS are the jobs we rotate. Morning jobs may include wiping down bathroom counters, feeding the family pet, or packing lunches for school. Evening may include setting the table for dinner, rinsing the dinner dishes, clearing the table after dinner or sweeping the kitchen/dining room floors. Jobs can be paired up (two per child) or by themselves with enough job cards for each child in the family.

HOMEWORK & READING are fairly self-explanatory. They have to get straight to homework after school and get it done before doing anything else. (They usually snack while working on homework.) We also require that they each read (or be read to) every day, even in the summer.

ATTITUDE & BEHAVIOR is based on a "three strikes" system in our house. A "strike" is a reminder that a given behavior is unacceptable. If they don't get "three strikes" of not-so-nice behavior during the day, they get to mark their chart that they were well-behaved. "Three strikes" earns a ZERO for that day and counts against them at the end of the week. (I'll explain that in a minute…) A strike usually has consequences as well, such as a time-out or a lost privilege, depending on the infraction and the child.

BONUS STARS are earned for going above and beyond. For instance: being helpful without being asked, being especially patient with a sibling, etc. Mom and Dad are the only ones who can award bonus stars. Sometimes we've used bonus stars to re-motivate when kids haven't been good at getting all their chores marked. In that instance, we've awarded a bonus star just for having the entire day marked off and complete. Bonus stars are nice for the kids because they can take the place of anything else missed during the week OR count for extra Kid Bucks on payday (see "Payment" below). For example, on each child's chart there are 36 squares. If they miss 2 chores during the week but get 4 bonus stars, the first two make up for the missed ones, and those two extra bonus stars count for extra Kid Bucks at the end of the week.

PAYMENT is made at the end of the week, after their PM Lists are done. Kid Bucks are awarded on a sliding scale (below):

Completed Allowance
1-10 10 kid bucks
11-20 25 kid bucks
21-32 35 kid bucks
33-36 50 kid bucks

Anything after 50 is worth one Kid Buck each. And in our house, if you don't mark it, it doesn't count. Aren't we harsh?? (We do usually remind them at the end of the day to make sure their chore charts are marked.)


Kid Bucks are covered with clear contact paper and are printed on both sides on green paper. The different denominations have different pictures and have "[Family Name] Federal Reserve" at the top. Cute, huh? :)

The kids keep their Kid Bucks in soft-cover sunglass cases we found at the dollar store. They zip shut and are the perfect size for the Kid Bucks. We hang them in the kitchen on a key hook so they don't get lost. Any Kid Bucks found lying around become the property of the Family Bank (aka, Mom & Dad).


At different times we have offered the opportunity to earn extra Kid Bucks on top of what they earn with their chore charts each week. These Kid Bucks are earned by doing extra chores assigned by Mom or Dad and are offered with a set amount of Kid Bucks they can earn for doing the chore. Right now we're offering extra Kid Bucks that can be earned to exchange for cash to spend on Christmas gifts for siblings. For instance, our office is a cluttered mess so I offer 20 Kid Bucks to my 10 year old to get it tidy and clean, including dusting and vacuuming. The office is clean so I'm happy; she's earned some extra Kid Bucks so she's happy.


Kid Bucks can be used to "purchase" privileges, treats, or exchanged for cash. If exchanged for cash, they are worth 10% of their face value. So, for instance, a child who earns $50 in Kid Bucks can exchange those Kid Bucks for $5 in cash. [We are LDS and pay tithing to our church. The children pay tithing only on what they exchange for cash and not on the exchangeable value of all of their Kid Bucks.] Our rule in our house is that the child must decide what they are spending their cash on before we do the exchange and that their intended purchase must be pre-approved by Mom or Dad, though we are fairly lenient. We chose to do this to avoid too much candy or junk in the house and to encourage our children to think about their purchases and what they want to spend their money on before they go to the store. (Hopefully this instills in them a resistance to impulse-buying.) Eventually we hope to include a portion of their earnings going toward cash savings, but so far they are only saving Kid Bucks for future purchases – which I guess is essentially the same idea in theory.

Privileges they can "purchase" with their Kid Bucks can be:

  • Choosing dessert.
  • Items from the "Treat Basket." (limit one per day)
  • Getting an ice cream cone from McD's or the like.
  • Telvision, computer, or game system playing time.
  • Staying up 30 minutes late on a Friday or Saturday night.
  • Renting a movie to watch at home.
  • Going out for a Special Outing (i.e., Bowling, Movie Theater, etc.)

Children "pay" for TV and computer time. It helps them use their screen time more efficiently. They don't watch TV just for the sake of watching TV. They decide ahead of time what they want to watch. Many times my kids have asked to watch TV, couldn't find something they felt was worth their hard-earned Kid Bucks, and went to play instead. Yay!

I think the rest of the list is self-explanatory, with the exception of the Treat Basket. We have a "Treat Basket" filled with their favorite goodies on the top shelf of the pantry (snack-size candies, rice krispies treats, etc along with notes referring to treats in the fridge or freezer like popsicles or ice cream). They get to participate in deciding what goes in the treat basket. This is hopefully instilling in them the idea that "treats" are a privilege and not common-place. These treats are off-limits unless purchased with Kid Bucks.


The kids' chore charts and the Kid Bucks were created on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The chore charts were printed on cardstock and laminated. The rotating chores were also printed on cardstock and laminated. I cut them out and used self-adhesive Velcro dots on the back of the cards and on the front of the kids' charts so they would be easy to rotate from chart to chart each week. I added self-adhesive strips of magnet to the back of the charts so they could hang on the inside of my metal front door or on the fridge. We use dry erase markers to mark the charts with, though I do recommend purchasing some dry-erase board cleaner to make erasing the charts easier. [Use the cleaner about once a month to help make the laminated surface slicker and easier to erase.] The Kid Bucks are printed on both sides of regular-weight green paper then covered on both sides with clear contact paper and cut out. Laminating them is also an option, but they are softer and easier for the kids to handle with the contact paper on them. These work best if you center the page both horizontally and vertically so they line up properly when you print them on both sides.

Remember, you can take my idea and make it your own. This is the system that works for US, but I realize it isn't for everyone. Every family who is making a valiant effort to teach their children to work is doing the right thing and teaching their children valuable skills and principles that will serve them well later in life.


In the past I've personalized Kid Bucks for others, putting their family name at the top. I can personalize chore charts as well, including rotating chores of your choice. I can save these in a PDF format (to preserve the formatting) and email them to you.

If you prefer, I can personalize, print, laminate, and mail you the whole set with the chores/names of your choice, including Kid Bucks.

Email me at cleverhomemaking[at]gmail[dot]com for current pricing, if you have any questions, or to request any items.

** As of 7/09, I've set up a shop on to sell personalized Chore Charts & Kid Bucks. See my post: "Chore Charts & Kid Bucks are on Etsy!!" for information about purchasing my system.

I participated in Tip Junkie's Talk to Me Tuesday 10/20/2009 when she asked, "If you had 1 blog post that you wanted all of your readers to know about – what one would it be?" This post is it, folks! :)


  1. I LOVE how organized you are!!! You need to move here NOW so I can learn all of your neat tricks!
    Hmm.. I wonder if this would work for Jeff. ;)

  2. this is fantastic. I just stumbled upon your site and its great. I am LDS too and like what you have done. what is your fee for the personlizing. I'd be interested if it is within reason. Please feel free to link to my site and email me.

  3. OHH! I love Your idea way to do with your kids charts! It just perfect for me what I m looking for!!!!!

    chore, routine morning and night.

    thank you for sharing!!!

  4. Fab. I don't have kids, but I'm taking tips for my husband and I! Saw you on TJ!

  5. Very clever! I used a "bucks" system in my 2nd grade classroom last year and it was very motivating! Never thought about extending it to at-home chores (but then again, I don't have any kids!) Definitely saving this idea for future reference.
    Saw your link on Tip Junkie.

  6. Wow! You are so organized and I love it! Good ideas for me to keep in mind as my kiddos get older. Thanks!

  7. Oh, wow! We're just getting into charts and things of that nature with our two-year-old. It has definitely helped with bedtime and "breaking" her {sorry for the terrible term!} from having to always cuddle me to go to sleep. Seeing that she likes to process things and know what the expectations are, this has been really helpful.

    I love your ideas and can't wait to start using them as our children (one on the way, too!!!) grow.

  8. This sounds like such a great system! I've been cruising the net looking for some ideas for our family and this is just the thing I need. Thank you for sharing! I'm trying to adapt a few things to our family - would you mind sharing where you got your clip art to make the morning/evening schedules? You can email me at Thank you so much!

  9. Great ideas!! Just wondering where you got your pictures from?

  10. I got my clip art from Microsoft Office Clip Art. :)

  11. I love this concept! At what age did you start your kids on these charts?

  12. Beth, I started using the AM/PM charts at about age 2 1/2 or 3. I instituted the whole system by the time they were about 5 and starting school.