Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Responsibility, Work Ethic, and Money Management, Oh My!

This year the Schnabel kids are getting a lesson in hard work, responsibility, and money management. I read a magazine article by a woman whose 7-year-old son began a trash-to-curb business to earn some pocket money and I was inspired. Apparently I don’t get out much.

Of course the initial challenge in this endeavor was to find age appropriate “jobs” that the kids could charge money for. We don’t do the allowance thing anymore, mainly because I want them to learn that it is their responsibility as members of this family to contribute to the running of the household. It’s been about a year since we stopped paying allowance but the kids still perform their daily chores—unload dishwasher, take out trash, feed pets, etc.—and sometimes they even do it without whining. Gasp!

Now, however, I want them to find something outside of the home to do to earn money (except Alyssa, who is too young yet to gad about town on her own). For Ashley, it is simply a matter of preparation. She will be twelve this summer. A couple of inches taller and she will be big enough to detassle corn. Two short years and she can legally work at McDonald’s. Don’t say it…don’t you dare…I am not old! Yet.

Andrew is eager enough to get to work; he is very motivated like his dad. The problem with Andrew is that his primary motivation is money. Accordingly, one of my points of focus during this lesson is to teach the kids how to divide their money into three pots: spending, saving, and giving.

Abby—well I’m not really sure what to do with her yet. She is the hardest for me to read since we are the least alike personality-wise. I will probably ask my sis for advice on this one. She doesn’t care about money and doesn’t even seem to enjoy spending it all that much. My sister recently took her to the mall (an hour away) to spend her $50 from Christmas. She bought an adorable stuffed monkey for ten dollars and then called it a day. Weird. I think maybe she was switched at birth.

Alyssa is the youngest, and frankly kind of spoiled and selfish. As with Andrew, I think the money issue will be my main focus with her, although she definitely needs to learn a better work ethic as well. She wants to be a professional dancer, which is one of the most demanding careers I can think of, and one that cannot be attained without a good deal of blood and sweat—neither of which she is particularly willing to contribute at this point.

Alyssa was the first to get a job assignment. What she needed was a job that would make her get up and move as far away from the house as possible without removing her from my sight. Ah—the mail! Requires shoes (theoretically) and a short walk outside, which in Nebraska could mean braving a windstorm, a blizzard, or even smothering heat. She gets paid thirty cents a day for bringing the mail into the house, but there are two catches:
1. She has to remember to do this on her own, before Matt gets home and checks the mail, otherwise she doesn’t get paid.
2. She has to split her money up equally using the Girl Scout Cookie box bank we made together. In the manner of a school-made Valentine’s Day mailbox, we covered three boxes with paper—which she decorated—taped them together, and cut slots in each. After bringing in the mail she gets three dimes: one for spending, one for saving, and one for giving.

She is a lot like me and went shopping as soon as she had enough money to buy a pack of gum, but has not even tried to touch the money in the other two sections. Tonight she even asked me to help her empty the “give” box so she could take the money to AWANA’s to donate. Good Alyssa! I may have been distracted by the Crazy Hair Night theme for tonight and forgotten to give her the money, but at least she is thinking about it, and that, after all, is the point of this exercise.

Andrew was pretty easy too. He has a new friend in town with a really cool bike. A really expensive bike actually—and Andrew wants one. So he has started a trash-to-curb business where he rolls the neighbor’s trash cans down to the curb before trash day and returns them to their resting place the next day. He set out to shop for clients as soon as he got home from school this afternoon and already has four clients (including us—he has a great sales pitch!).

We still need to work on the concept of separating his earnings into the spending/saving/giving categories, but for now he is pooling his money in a glass jar to cover his contribution to the new bike fund. This way he will learn how to look at the bigger picture as he saves, rather than spends his earnings—and by the time summer arrives he will have a super cool BMX freestyler with twenty-inch tires and five-spoke rims.

Yep, that’s right. I know about bikes. I’m the cool mom. Or at least I am impersonating her by copying the product info. off of

Bikes have two wheels. They are faster than running. Those little seats really hurt my ***. That’s all I need to know.

When it comes to picking a job, that’s the easy part for Ash. She loves animals, so she is advertising herself as a pet sitter for vacationing Murdock-ians. Murdock-enes? Murdock citizens. There we go. The hard part for her will be finding clients within biking distance in such an unpopulated area, but I think even a couple of good jobs throughout the summer will help to improve her level of responsibility.

I am also training her as a babysitter, so that is something else that she should be able to start doing in the not-too-distant future. And as soon as she finishes this growth spurt—detassling! It’s hot, back-breaking labor, but I have a feeling the shopping spree at Justice with one third of her earnings will make it worth the pain.

As I said earlier, I haven’t decided what to do with Abby yet. However, I am currently taking suggestions. Please submit your ideas by e-mail or facebook by May 1st. Thank you.

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