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Automating Allowance and Chore Tracking for the Bank of Helbig

Automating the Bank of HelbigIn his recent column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Allowances for Kids, with a Savings Twist, Bob Helbig, describes the new allowance and chore system he rolled out this year for his young daughters, Mia (10) and Tess (8). The Helbig system includes:

  • a formal description and contracts (see Mia’s here and Tess’ here),
  • expected weekly and daily chores,
  • penalties for certain hot-button infractions,
  • a $3 weekly allowance split between spending and saving,
  • the ability to choose how much is kept and how much is saved each week, and
  • aggressive matching incentives from Dad to encourage saving.

It’s a neat family banking system. Bob hopes it will instill some valuable lessons over time — the key one being: “saving pays!”

Since being able to customize your virtual family bank is one of our hallmarks, we decided to put FamZoo to the test: could we faithfully represent the “Bank of Helbig”? Yep.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for how we took the rules described in Bob’s system and brought them to life in FamZoo.

Meet the Helbig Family

The first order of business is to register the family. Here’s the Family tab after filling out the three short forms to register Bob and add his two daughters. We also picked some suitable avatars for each family member and added Bob’s touch-phrase from the end of his column — “Savings pays!” — as a family motto. Check out the top section in the right sidebar.

Meet the Helbig Family

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Create Spending and Savings Accounts

Bob’s Allowance Savings Plan document opens with:

To encourage savings, Mia Rose Helbig and Teresa Violet Helbig will be able to choose how much of their allowance they keep each week and how much will go into their savings accounts.

So, we’ll need two accounts for each daughter: one for the “keep” portion (which I take to mean spending) and one for savings. We create each by clicking on a Create Account link (which you can find on either the Overview or the Bank tab) and filling out the form.

Creating an Account

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Here’s what the Overview page looks like right after creating all four accounts:

Initial Helbig Account Overview

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Create Checklist for Chores & Payments

Bob’s document continues with:

Each will earn $3 weekly if they fulfill all conditions spelled out in their respective allowance contracts.

Peeking at the contract, we see the conditions include a set of expected daily and weekly chores. Those can be captured in a FamZoo checklist. So, we go to the Checklist tab, click the link to create a new checklist, and fill in the form to get started. We’ll do this once for each daughter, calling one “Mia Allowance” and the other “Tess Allowance”.

Creating a Checklist for Responsibilities, Penalties, and Payments

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Add Expected Chores

Now that we have the (initially empty) checklists for Mia and Tess created, we can start filling them in with the expected chores for each daughter. Just click the Add Item link and fill in the options to match each chore name and frequency specified in the matching allowance contract. For example, here’s the Add Item dialog filled in for Mia’s weekly “Vacuum the living room” chore that we’ll assume happens every Saturday.

Setting Up Chore Responsibilities

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Add Penalties

Bob’s contracts also include penalties for a couple of habits he’d like to discourage. For example, here’s the one for Mia:

It is Mia’s responsibility to bring her lunch bag home every day. Failure to do so will result in a penalty of 50 cents being deducted from her allowance for each day she does not bring it home.

We can represent this clause in Mia’s contract with a checklist item repeating every weekday that debits her spending account 50 cents whenever it is checked off. Here’s how we fill in the Add Item dialog to make that happen.

Setting Up Penalties

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Add Weekly Keep/Save Choices

The final step in the setup is to represent the weekly allowance keep/save options that Bob describes in his plan document:

Each week, each girl will decide how much of their allowance they will receive in cash and how much she will save. For every dollar they choose to NOT receive in cash, but designate for savings, it will be matched by an equal amount to be deposited in their savings accounts. All decisions on how much to keep and how much to save must be made in whole dollar amounts (no fractional amounts).

Since all payments are made in whole dollars, this description neatly translates to just four possible keep/save options depending on whether the daughter chooses to save zero, one, two, or three dollars. So, we can easily create end-of-week repeating checklist items that capture each choice. For example, here’s what the Add Item dialog looks like to capture the case when Mia chooses to keep one dollar, save two dollars, and get a two dollar match from Dad:

Setting Up the Four Payment/Matching Scenarios

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Check Off Chores/Penalties

Now that the checklists are all set up to capture the rules of the Helbig system, it’s just a matter of checking off items for completed chores and any infractions during the week. Here’s what a typical day might look like in the Due Today view of Mia’s checklist:

Checking Off Completed Chores and Assessing Penalties

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Choose Keep/Save Amounts

Then, at the end of each week, Bob can check over the girl’s performance. If they’ve lived up to the contract, the girls can make their keep/save choices. Bob can check off the items for the selected choices to make the appropriate credits to their accounts. Here’s what it looks like just after Mia makes the choice to keep one dollar, save two dollars, and pick up a two dollar savings match from Dad:

Making Payments Each Week Based on Keep/Save Decisions

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Review Decision History

At any time, Bob or the girls can review the history of their decisions and the running balances in each account. Here’s what the history in Mia’s Savings account looks like after several weeks of keep/save decisions:

Running Balance and Transaction History

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Mia’s Account Summary So Far

At the end of his column, Bob summarizes Mia’s keep/save status as follows:

Our older daughter, 10, who tends to want cash on hand, so far this year has earned $27, kept $16 and chosen to save $11, meaning she’s benefited from $22 deposited in her savings account.

Here’s what that same summary looks like on Mia’s Overview tab:

Mia's Account Summary

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Whaddya Think? Ready to Start Your Own?

So those are the allowance and chore rules in the Helbig family, and that’s what it takes to automate their system in FamZoo. What do you think of the Helbig approach? How does it compare to your allowance and/or chore system? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Ready to set up your own virtual family bank system in FamZoo? Register here.

Need help getting things configured just right? We’re always happy to help. Contact us.

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