Monday, August 29, 2011

How the Cash Envelope System Can Work with Chores

Our cash envelope system continues to work well for us, helping us discipline and track our spending and save in various areas. With the system, as you probably know, you put a certain amount of money in each envelope, spending it as needed. But the goal is to spend as little as possible in order to save as much as possible and see that money grow.

I think the same principle can work in our homes in reverse. Let me explain.

Instead of putting money in envelopes, you'll put a list of chores--written on index cards--in six envelopes, one for each day of the week (I suggest taking the Sabbath off for rest). Whereas with the cash envelopes where you'll aim to move through the money as slowly as possible, with the envelope chore card system, you'll aim to "spend" them (or move through them) as quickly as possible each day.

How to make this work, practically speaking? First, think through what needs to be done in your home on a weekly basis. Write these chores down on a sheet of paper. Note how often they need to be done. (For example, with boys, I need to do at least a quick clean of our bathroom every day or every few days. With laundry, I have to do at least two loads a day to stay on top of it. Then I have to put those away each day.) If you need ideas of what should be done weekly, I've found these books helpful: Confessions of a Happily Organized Family and Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. (Check if your library has one or both, or do an Internet search on suggested weekly cleaning chores).

Then look over your list and transfer the chores to index cards (one chore per card). Divide those up as evenly as possible into the envelopes. Don't spend too much time figuring out if you'd rather mop on Monday or on Wednesday, dust and vacuum on Tuesday or Friday--although, if you know a certain day of the week is particularly busy for you, put fewer chores in that day's envelope.

With little children, you could draw pictures on the index cards to illustrate the chore. If they're capable of doing it, they can "spend" that card. One of my boys, in particular, loves getting in our cash envelopes (and really loves finding the bigger bills). So now he can have an envelope system I don't mind him digging through. Maybe if he does a good job, he can earn some money from a cash envelope--just not as large of a bill as he would hope for (a one, not a one with two zeroes.) :)

I think we'll make some chore envelopes in the morning, complete with pictures. I'm thinking three to five chores each day is a good start. (We can always build from there as needed). Then we'll aim to work through them as quickly as possible for the day.

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