When our kids were young (and less plentiful), my wife heard of a chore time concept called “job jar”. The idea was to print out a list of jobs and how much they were worth, put them into a glass jar, and then let the kids choose which jobs to do. Each job would be on a little paper strip, and the strip would give the dollar amount the job was worth.
The concept was great. My wife loved how she could get help with extra jobs she needed done around the house. The kids liked getting to choose which jobs to do and really enjoyed earning a little extra spending money.
Unfortunately, it did not last long for us. We kept losing the papers, or we would get too busy and forget to replenish the jar with new jobs, or the kids would lose the job paper, or the entire job jar itself would disappear. More often than not, the kids would cherry pick the easiest or highest-paying jobs, leaving the other jobs undone, or they would lose interest in the job jar altogether. As frustrating as those problems were, those were not the biggest issues we had with the job jar.
Job jar was a nice idea with some great benefits, but in practical terms, it felt like it was only part of a system.
The main problem we had with using a job jar as our main chore system was two-fold. First, some kids would simply choose the same jobs every time. They would never learn some of the other jobs. For example, one of our children loved vacuuming. That is the only job they would ever choose. They never learned how to do dishes or how to clean the bathroom. If it continued, there would be some major gaps in their domestic education by the time they left home.
Second, because the kids got to choose if and when they did jobs, they never really learned work ethic. Yes, they earned their spending money and learned to do some jobs, but there was no consistency. We have learned over the years that the only way to truly learn work ethic is to have regular, consistent, routine chores for weeks and weeks. It may sound tedious and awful (it’s not), but it is the only way to overcome the fear of work and eventually learn to love to work.
In short, job jar was a nice idea with some great benefits, but in practical terms, it felt like it was only part of a system. Basically, it was incomplete.
Job Jar: What It Is And What It Is Not
So, when we first developed Moneypants, we did not have job jar as part of the app. We originally left it out. We focused on making sure daily and weekly jobs were the focus. After all, the main purpose of daily and weekly jobs is to teach, develop, and enhance the work ethic of every family member. Once we had that in place, only then did we decide to include job jar.
The thing about job jar is that it is supplementary to daily and weekly jobs. It is not a replacement for daily and weekly jobs. Daily and weekly jobs are the meat and potatoes of Moneypants. They are the main course. They are what makes the home run smoothly. Job jar, then, is the banana pudding of Moneypants. It is the delicious and wonderful dessert. It is what makes Moneypants fun and enjoyable.
Daily Job Examples
- Vacuuming living room
- Straightening up
- Meal preparation
Weekly Job Examples
- Mowing the lawn
- Cleaning the car
- Taking out the garbage
- Paying bills and updating finances
Daily and weekly jobs are absolutely necessary for the home to run. If they do not get done, there will be problems. But that does not include everything necessary for maintaining the home and yard. And that is where job jar comes in. Job jar includes everything that daily and weekly jobs do not, especially irregular or seasonal jobs.
Job Jar Examples
- Deep clean cabinets
- Stack wood pile in yard
- Clip chicken wings
- Remove that darn wood post from the old fence
- Clean out gutters
- Put up Christmas lights
- Household repairs
- Short-term jobs (raising baby chicks or gardening)
- Planting garden
- Painting or cleaning walls
- Organize toy or game closet
- Mentor a younger kid
- Shoveling snow
- Cleaning the pool
- Winterizing the jacuzzi
- Pruning the fruit trees or the roses
How Does It Work?
First off, job jar gets its funding from the family budget. When setting up Moneypants, the app asks for household income. The app uses that number to calculate how much discretionary income the family has to spend, and then from there calculates how much each job and habit is worth.
To fund job jar, we siphoned off a small portion of the discretionary money and threw it into job jar. So good news! Job jar is not an additional expense. It—like everything else in Moneypants—is money you were already spending. It will not cost you a dime.
During the course of the year, the job jar budget will deplete as people complete jobs. But job jar also gets additional funding. Any money that family members do not earn during the week gets put into job jar. For instance, if little Harold was supposed to earn $20 during the week but only ended up earning $15, then the remaining $5 would go into funding job jar.
Now, when little Harold needs additional money, he can earn some of it by doing jobs from the job jar. Nice! We jokingly call job jar “your second chance at success”, but there is a lot of truth there. If you are not able to earn enough money during the week, there is always job jar there to help out. Go find a job jar item, get paid, and get your piggy banks back on track.
How Does It Work—Specifically?
In the Moneypants app, when creating a new job jar item, first you give it a name. That makes sense. We recommend using emojis in addition to a description to help with clarity.
Then you choose how long it will take. This is key. The app is asking you to place a time value on the job. Once you do that, the app calculates how much it should be worth. This is convenient because you do not have to come up with how much each job is worth. Just enter how long it should take, and the app does the rest.
This also makes job jar items fair. It does not matter if Billy or Suzy or Jane do the job—it pays the same. And if you the parent decide it should be worth a half hour of pay, then that is what it will be worth. If Billy drags his heels and takes 45 minutes to do the job, it still only pays for a half hour. If Billy gets his lightning on and only takes 20 minutes to do the job, then he still gets paid for the half hour.
Then there is the repeat option. Some jobs repeat monthly, or every other month, or twice a year, or yearly. (If a job repeats weekly, though, it should be included as a weekly job.)
- Change air conditioning filters
- Change car oil
- Sharpen lawnmower blades
- Clean out water heater
- Prune fruit orchard
- Paint the fence
- Pay taxes
- Taking down Christmas decorations
Outsmarting Job Jar
Of course, there are always people trying to “game the system”. Years ago, we knew a family that used a similar system to ours. They had daily and weekly jobs, and the weekly jobs paid a lot more than the daily ones. One clever kid figured out how to get out of working. He would claim the lawnmowing job every week. It paid a whopping $20—more than what he would have made doing daily jobs all week. Sweet!
Sadly, his plan backfired. He ended up never learning to work. Instead, he always looked for the “big score” when it came to jobs, employment, and work opportunities. He has never had a regular job and has not been able to have a successful career.
Luckily, Moneypants helps prevent this scenario. True, job jar items pay well, but not enough to compensate for neglecting daily and weekly jobs. For example, if Heather decides she does not want to do her daily job, three things will happen. First, she will not get paid. Not a big deal, perhaps, because daily jobs do not pay very much. But then, second, she will lose her job bonus. That IS a big deal. It is roughly 1/5 of her weekly earnings. Yikes! And then on top of that, she will also have to pay for a substitute to do her job.
If Heather neglects her daily jobs, she will end up losing all her money in fees and substitutes. Any money she hopes to gain by just doing job jar will get canceled out by the loss of money from neglecting daily and weekly jobs.
That is how job jar prevents family members from “gaming the system”. See our blog “End The Allowance Spending Spree Madness” for more details.
Job jar is really that tool in the Moneypants toolbox that goes above and beyond basic maintenance. It is where the home really gets its polish (and how your drapes get clean). There are more benefits, though, than meets the eye.
Benefit #1: Bad Memory Help
We make the rather bold claim that when you use Moneypants, your kids will come to you, asking for more jobs to do. This really does happen. Before we had job jar, I remember having to rack my brain to think of extra jobs for the kids to do. But now, as I go about my week, if I see something that needs to be done, I quickly enter it into job jar where it will be ready for when the kids come asking. It makes my job easier.
Benefit #2: Overcoming Discouragement
We already mentioned it above, but it bears repeating. When family members fall behind in their earnings, they could potentially get discouraged and even give up. But with job jar, they have a second chance at success. They have a way to make up for lost earnings. It is kind of like a mercy rule. Plus, job jar gets its funding from the money that people did not earn anyway.
Benefit #3: Satisfaction Of A Nice Home
My daughter Sassy absolutely loves job jar. Yes, she likes getting paid, but her real reason for constantly completing job jar items is simple: she finds it satisfying. She loves seeing the home in order. The nice thing about job jar is that it is an ongoing list of things that help make the home run smoother. For people like Sassy, they like having a list of things to do when they have downtime. In fact, Sassy sometimes will complete tasks from job jar and will forget to mark it. The completion of the job and satisfaction that comes from it is enough for her. (Of course, we always have her mark it later.)
This may be the single best benefit of job jar: when family members take pride in maintaining the home and enjoy fixing it up. And why not cultivate that attitude? Why not encourage that? Why not reward kids (and adults) for taking initiative to help make the home a better place?
Turns out, when it is part of a bigger system, job jar is really is great.
What about you? What sort of chore system do you use? Do you use the job jar? Or do you use something else entirely? Leave a comment below.