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Ask Dave

Paying the Kids

Sarah asks if kids' commissions should go into the budget while doing the debt snowball.

QUESTION: Sarah on Twitter asks if kids’ commissions should go into the budget while doing the debt snowball.

ANSWER: Yeah. Commissions for kids—if you’re broke and in debt—don’t need to be high because you’re not really paying them economically for what they’re doing. They really don’t do that much. We’re just trying to get them to tie work to money emotionally. What is it really worth economically? What would you pay somebody from the outside to clean up their room? A dollar, seriously. I mean, what does it take to clean up a room or put your dishes in the dishwasher or feed the dog? I mean, these are not big, heavy-lifting, $40-a-week events.

It’s not about the amount of money. We’re not trying to create large amounts of money here. We’re trying to create the idea that emotionally, the kid gets where money comes from: —work. Work creates money. There’s an emotional connection you’re trying to get. That’s why we put our kids on commission. We didn’t put them on allowance. Allowance is welfare. Commission is work, get paid; don’t work, don’t get paid.

By the way, you adults—you’re all on commission. Try not going to work for six weeks. They will quit paying you. Work, get paid; don’t work, don’t get paid. Those that don’t work, don’t let them eat. The Bible said that. I didn’t. Don’t get mad at me.

I was telling somebody—we were laughing about that stuff, and—the Ramseys are a little bit dramatic. Can you imagine? I remember I was about 10 or 12 years old, and I was probably not doing the chores that I was supposed to be doing, and there’s nothing much more motivating to a 12-year-old young man than eating. I remember coming to the dinner table one night, and there was my dad’s claw hammer lying beside my plate. He said, “You see that plate? You see that hammer? You don’t cut the grass, I’m going to break your plate. You’re not going to have any food.” I got it. It’s one way to get your attention, you know? A little dramatic, but I got it! I get the grass cut, get the chores done, do the stuff. It left a lasting impression. I still get my work done.

One of the best gifts you give your kids is teaching them how to work. I’m not talking about putting a 3-year-old in the salt mines. This is not a sweat shop. Don’t misunderstand, but the poor little things—they can lift a piece of clothing out of the floor that they happen to drop there. It’s called cleaning your room. Put your stuff in the dirty pile.

Hey, here’s an idea: Teach your young men before they leave how to wash a load of clothes and sew on a button, because you might be in a hotel room sometime and getting ready to go on the big appointment in another city and the button come off your shirt. Hello! What are you going to do? Wander around and find somebody down at 4, 3, 2 and 1 in the morning—whatever it is—and find somebody to sew that thing on? Not gonna happen. Have a little sewing kit in your shaving kit and voila! You can put a button back on. I can’t sew any more than that, but I can get a button on. Shut up.

Teach your daughters to change the oil in the car. It’s not a bad idea. Hopefully, they’ll never have to do it, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to know how to do that.

There are some things like that that are called work that go with life, and they’re good things for your child to walk around and have the dignity of knowing how to do that. I’m not trying to turn your daughter into a gearhead. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not going to dress her up in NASCAR attire. That’s not the idea. Don’t get carried away here, but the point is we’re just trying to say, hey, here’s some things that you can do that you can do.

As far as putting it in your budget, our kids . . . We were broke, man, when they were on commission. We had $5 a week. Five bucks a week is $20 a month. If it needs to go in the budget, put it in the budget. We had three kids, so it’s $75 a month, so I guess that’s plenty to be in a budget. And they didn’t always do it, so they didn’t get the whole amount because if you didn’t do the work, you didn’t get the money. We had a little chore worksheet on the refrigerator door—commission worksheet—with your chores. You did the chore, you checked it off, you got paid. You didn’t do the chore, you didn’t check it off, you didn’t get paid. That commission worksheet now is a little dry erase board in Financial Peace Junior that we sell for teaching your kids how to handle money.

You can put the commissions in the budget. The point is it doesn’t have to be a lot of money. It’s all about the activity and the connectivity—the emotional connectivity—between work equals money.