Kids Earn Money: Creating and Teaching Values

Written by Melanie Burston

Melanie is co-founder of EMPOWERed 4 GROWth, a certified Planned Parent sexual health educator and mom of four adulting humans. On the blog, Melanie shares life stories from her 36 years of experience raising children. Raising independent, self-motivated, confident children and helping move them towards their life’s purpose is what drives her work. You can reach Melanie by email:

August 5, 2020

How do you teach kids about money?

As I started to think about why kids need money, it brought me back to my own childhood and what it meant to learn about and have my own money. To me, it meant that I could plan for the things that I wanted, and it helped me feel proud to go to a store and hand the clerk my hard-earned dollars. Growing up in our house, money had to be earned. My dad showed us as kids to earn money; there were no rooms for “freeloaders!”

Allowance or reward system: What were you taught?

As a child, money didn’t come in the form of an “allowance” or a “reward system.” In my family we had chores and opportunities as kids to earn money. Chores were a part of being a responsible member of the family unit. It was an expectation and a responsibility to clean and take care of your personal space (your bedroom). Some rooms, like bathrooms and kitchens, were classified as “shared spaces” – common areas that everyone used. It meant that you pitched in and took care of your messes within the shared space.

When it came to deep cleaning a shared space or other bigger jobs, like windows, cars, the garage or yard work, we got paid a set amount. We had a list for this with an amount that we all negotiated and agreed upon for each task.

Kids Need Money: little girl with long red hair in pink plaid long shorts, singing and playing her pink guitarMoney was valued as “hard work” – it didn’t come easy, as kids we had to earn money and it was a reward for your effort. Dad also showed me the value of not wasting money and how to save money for valued opportunities. He would say: “There is money everywhere – if you keep your eyes open and pay attention, you’ll find it. Being an entrepreneur was also encouraged as a way for kids to earn money in our family. Get out there and hustle, figure out what skills you have to offer and get out there. People waste money every day. Let’s go make some money!”

How do you save for the future?

On Saturdays, I would often go to work with dad – mostly to give my mom a break – but there was a silver lining. I loved going to work with my dad. It was fun and everyone there seemed happy and enjoyed their work. People at his work called me his “little sidekick.”

When we got to Dad’s work we’d create a list of tasks and he’d say, “How much money are you going to earn today?”

At the beginning, I can remember thinking about this question and relating it to how much a bag of chips would cost. I would have to calculate in my head how many quarters I needed for the bag of chips and that would equal the number of tasks I needed to accomplish. The rest was gravy! Anything left over at the end of the day was bonus money that would go into my piggy bank.

Dad would always have shiny quarters in his pocket, ready to pay me when I completed a task. He’d show one to me at the beginning of every workday adventure. I collected another each time I checked something off my list – an instant reward system that motivated me to continue completing task after task.

How do you spend money?

Each task on my to-do list equaled one quarter.  I was being paid by the job, not the hour. At first, I wasn’t calculating how my quarters added up to an hourly rate. I was only thinking about working just enough over the course of the day to buy the one thing I desired.

One day, it clicked. I figured out that I wasn’t earning an hourly wage of .25/hr., I was being paid by the task. It only seemed like 25¢ an hour because I was completing one task per hour. And that was not a great hourly wage! I figured out that if I could complete my tasks more efficiently, my hourly wage would go up.

What I didn’t know and have since realized is that Dad allowed me to learn through my own experience. He let me complete my tasks as quickly or as slowly as I wanted, without judgement or advice. This let me figure out through my own experience the value of my time and effort. Experiential learning is:

“…the strategic, active engagement of students in opportunities to learn through doing, and reflection on those activities, which empowers them to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical endeavours in a multitude of settings inside and outside of the classroom.”

Simon Fraser University

How do you give back?

My only experience as a child with charitable donations was in the form of UNICEF at Halloween. Students were given the option at school to collect change to be donated to UNICEF. This was my first and only example of giving back as a child, and it wasn’t money that I’d earned – I was just the “middleman.” My parents didn’t teach me the value of giving back or talk about supporting a cause. I don’t even recall school teaching us why we were collecting the change for UNICEF. I just remember saying “yes,” putting the little string around my neck with the dangling box, and following the process.

As an adult, I would learn about the things that were important to me and how to support a charity or cause that was true to my heart – something that struck an emotional connection.

Money Opportunities to Earn Money — Kids can earn money!

Kids earn money many different ways and earning money was only a small part of what my dad taught me. Kids Need Money: cases of vintage pop bottlesDad also showed me how to be resourceful and how to capitalize on someone else’s missed opportunity.

On Dad’s day off, he would often take us for a Sunday drive to search for bottles that people would toss to the side of the road. We would play a game called, “I spy the bottle.” It was a competition to see who could spy the bottles along the side of the road. Of course, Dad would almost always spy them first but would wait for either my brother or me to also spot the bottles. Dad was a pro at this game, he would always win. My brother and I would see some, but I truly believe that those were the ones that Dad left for us to find.

Teaching Core Values

Learning about money through my experience showed me the value of earning a dollar and how to work smart. I learned the value of working hard and being rewarded for my work. It gave me some independence; it allowed me to make choices around my spending and saving. My Dad guided me by setting an example, that working hard wasn’t necessarily fun and easy all of the time. There were many jobs that I had to do that I didn’t love. By modelling these core values, Dad taught me that I would be paid for my hard work whether I liked the task or not. He also appreciated my contribution and that motivated me to always try my best.

The Value of a Dollar

One of the core values that my parents instilled was “the value of a dollar.” As early as I can remember, it was always explained how hard it was to earn money. We were asked the questions:

  • Do you need it?
  • Can you live without it?
  • Can you afford it?

Everything had a price tag and as a kid, earning money was important, I knew that money does not grow on trees – earning my keep was important. Being a contributor in my own journey was essential in order to live, support and plan for the future.

To this day I maintain my loyal, hard work ethic from my parents. I watched them work hard their entire lives and I will never take money for granted.

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