What should I pay the neighbor kid for chores?
October 3, 2012 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Neighbor kid wants to do chores for money. What should I pay her?

12-year-old neighbor would like to earn some pocket money. I'm fine with that and certainly have things I'd like her to do. She's downstairs cleaning my bathroom now. I'd like to pay her generously but not exorbitantly. What's a fair rate for this kind of work? Per hour or per task?
posted by bac to Work & Money (17 answers total)
Think about what you want to incentivize.
Per hour prioritizes quality over efficiency (one is paid for the time it takes to do it right), and per task, efficiency over quality (one is better off with speed).

IMO, the best way would be to agree on a ballpark amount of time any given task should take, standards for cleanliness, and a per-task payment.

Or you can do $8/hr if you don't want to get too complicated.
posted by entropone at 10:47 AM on October 3, 2012

It really depends.

A professional cleaner goes by the hour, but a pro also knows what she's doing and does it quickly.

I tend to be over generous on tasks, with a formula that looks like:

A (my aversion to doing the task) X M (the amount of money I have)

If she gets it done well, in about 30 minutes, I'd give her a $5. If it required a haz mat suit, I'd bump it to $10.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:47 AM on October 3, 2012

I'd run it by her parents, honestly. She may be saving up for something special, or they may have told her they wouldn't give her the money and so she is trying to get it on the sly. Either way, you don't want to give her the equivalent of 100 times her allowance or, like, a penny for slave labor, so--ask them!
posted by misha at 10:48 AM on October 3, 2012 [13 favorites]

I'd probably pay per hour - it's simpler and you don't need to figure out how long it will take in advance.

As for rate, where are you located? $8-12/hr seems about right to me, depending on location.

(on preview, I agree that you should run it by her parents first)
posted by insectosaurus at 10:50 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Were she to take a minimum-wage job next year (I think 13 is the cutoff age for a work permit, at least in my state,) she'd probably make something like $6/hr after taxes. So $7 or $8/hr would be plenty fair. $10 if she's doing something particularly hard or gross.
posted by griphus at 10:53 AM on October 3, 2012

A per-task rate is better for kids. They're not watching the clock or managing their time, they're learning the value of a job well done. So the bathroom, cleaned to your standards, = $x.

Talk with her about what $x should be. Give her an opportunity to learn how to negotiate.

My son was 7 when he got the two-wheeler down solid and sold his tricycle to a neighbor kid. The kid's dad sat down with my son and negotiated the sale, encouraging him to haggle. It was a *great* formative experience for him, gave him a ton of confidence that I have never had with regard to money and I could have never taught him.
posted by headnsouth at 10:55 AM on October 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

(Also, things only getting more expensive, it seems. When I was roughly her age, I worked for $5/hr putting flyers on cars, and that $5 definitely bought more then than it would now.)
posted by griphus at 10:56 AM on October 3, 2012

For the last two years I hired my neighbor's son to handle my yard work, and shoveling me out in the winter. I paid him $10 an hour, and he seemed happy.

Now he's gone off to freshman year in college. I predict they will find our bones in early spring, long after the cats have eaten us, if we get a lot of snow this year.

A 12 year old simply can't handle heavy work the way an older teen would. I would probably start her at $6 or 7 an hour. But yeah, I actually worked the kid's rate out with his parents before we started the arrangement.
posted by instead of three wishes at 11:02 AM on October 3, 2012

Please send her to my house next! I'd do it by task - it's easier, I think, and you won't feel like even a little bit you need to pay attention to how long it takes her. I'd give her $20 to do the bathroom, because I hate doing that, unless it was spotless to begin with. I'd do a mental calculation of about $8/hour * number of hours you think it will take her and go with that for most tasks.
posted by mrs. taters at 11:09 AM on October 3, 2012

Definitely run it by her parents and see what they feel a reasonable amount of money is. Some years back, I hired the neighbor kid (12 or so at the time) to do a bunch of weeding and yard work. He did a hell of a job and got a lot done, and I paid him like $150. (It was seriously a mess to start with, he worked for several afternoons on it, and he did a better job than I would have.) His parents were glad he sought out work on his own, but were upset at the amount I paid him, because now he felt his allowance was inadequate and he wasn't getting paid enough to do his regular chores. I apologized and the kid wound up doing a little more work to burn off the difference, but still... Definitely make sure her parents are in the loop. However well-intentioned you may be, it's easy to go overboard and skew a kid's perceptions of what similar chores are 'worth'.
posted by xedrik at 11:11 AM on October 3, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks. The parent is in the loop but has no input ("whatever you want"). I'm leaning towards mrs. taters's approach but would welcome other input.
posted by bac at 11:14 AM on October 3, 2012

Uh. Voice of experience being that kid. Please don't approach her parents about this umless you know them. By the time I was 10 or 11 I was doing odd jobs (mostly yard stuff, weeding, raking, pruning) for money. I talked it up like I just needed pocket money to buy more books. But really, I was buying groceries in the time before my brother became a first class shop lifter, because our father just wasn't keeping up with anything in our lives.

I shudder to think what would have happened in my home if dad found out.

I don't know if I'd advocate poking around to try to figure out if there is anything wrong at home....but I definitely wouldn't suggest ratting her out.

On a more innocuous note, she could also be saving up to buy her mom a nice present.
posted by bilabial at 11:16 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Speaking from experience being the kid in this situation, payment by the task or (for big jobs) by the day is far better for all concerned. There's more incentive to do a good job instead of simply drawing things out, and you have the option to pay more for the really unpleasant stuff.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:18 AM on October 3, 2012

Oh. Preview might have saved me from that bit of sharing.

Given your update, I'd give her a chance to negotiate. Make this a teachable moment, since young girls and women are actively taught to just accept whatever is given them. Maybe gently suggest, as well, that settling on a price before she begins work will be a solid policy in the future, so is less likely to feel underpaid.
posted by bilabial at 11:18 AM on October 3, 2012

Wow, I feel old. And I'm not very old. I got $1/hr for farm work and $2/hr for work outside the family (snow shoveling and the usual stuff).

Seems I was getting ripped off.

Minimum wage seems more than fair to me, this person does not have bills or rent to pay and I doubt you are going to be working them that hard.
posted by Cosine at 11:21 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Per hour prioritizes quality over efficiency (one is paid for the time it takes to do it right), and per task, efficiency over quality (one is better off with speed).


*thinks back to dragging his feet when e.g. shoveling snow*

You may be laboring under a misconception, there. ;) Lazy/exploitative is lazy/exploitative no matter the situation.

I like by task. Sign off on it when it's done -- and make sure it's done to your standards. Do so the next time, as well. Then just assume it's going to be done right (until they mess up).
posted by curious nu at 11:59 AM on October 3, 2012

Yeah I was definitely the kind of kid who wouldn't think I should be rushing to get something done. I'd negotiate a price with her ahead of time, making sure she knows the quality desired, and do it on a per-task basis. The only flaw is that she might not realize how much work goes into each task, so she might underprice herself. I'd figure out for yourself what you think is fair. I think anywhere from $5-$10 an hour is fine, depending on your region. Here, kids can't get jobs until they're 15 or 16, so depending where you live she might not even be eligible for minimum wage for a few years.

So I'd a) figure out how long you expect her to spend on a task, b) figure out the quality standard, c) multiply that, d) bump it up a bit for tasks you wouldn't want to do or that require extra effort. (I'd pay more for bathroom cleaning and shoveling than watering houseplants.)
posted by DoubleLune at 12:19 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

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