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May 1, 2017

MKM Challenge: Budget Your Way to Wealth


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It is the first Monday of the month my friends! That means, we’re throwing down another MKM Challenge. For you “personal challenge types” out there (like me), this can be a lot of fun and, if you stick to it, quite rewarding.

Last month, I challenged myself to develop a chore and reward system for my 5-year old daughter, Zoey. The goal was to help Zoey correlate hard work with reward. This way she knows if she really wants something in life that she has the power to make it happen.  

The other side benefit of Zoey doing all of her chores is that my wife and I get some help around the house! And as Zoey grows older, the chores will get more helpful and she will become a kind, helpful and sincere little lady.

So, how’d we do?

Let’s first review the chore side of things and then we’ll discuss the reward side:


Like anything with a 5-year old, it wasn’t completely cut and dry. There were weeks when Zoey was enchanted. She would vacuum the kitchen with a smile on her face … which would bring a gigantic smile to my face.

Zoey Vacuums the Kitchen
Zoey is enchanted!

She even took the dinner dishes from the table to the sink without us even asking! And then there were times that she absolutely couldn’t do anything “because her arms hurt” or she was too tired. Hey, it’s not a military camp here. For the first month of us setting up this chore process, I would give my 5-year old girl an A+. I’m so proud of her and the hard work she did to help out the family.

I definitely learned a lot too. Here are some of the highlights of things I learned on the chore side of things:

1. Do Things Together

At my girl’s age, she was the best at her chores when her Mom and Dad were doing them with her. If she was emptying the silverware, then I tried to be there with her and wash dishes.

If she was vacuuming the kitchen, then I was right there with her sweeping the kitchen. When we had laundry to do, she would fold the socks and put away her clothes while her Mom folded our laundry.  

Zoey Folding Socks
Zoey folds her socks like a boss.

2. Pick your battles

Sometimes when my girl is in a bad mood or tired, she does not have the spunk to get her chores done. I can definitely relate. There are times in the day when I’m more productive than others. Given this, I chose to pick my battles. If she seemed really moody or tired, I wouldn’t force the chores on her. She’s still quite young and I want her to find the “fun” in helping out the family. 

That being said, if she decided not to do her chore then she wouldn't get her dollar. If we were out and about and she saw something she wanted to buy, we'd remind her about doing her chores and the reward she'd receive. Magically her drive to complete her responsibilities immediately returned. How convenient!

3. Give Her Love and Praise

When Zoey completed her chores, I would examine her work to see if the floor was clean or the silverware was put away correctly. I wasn't trying to be a perfectionist and freak her out. I was mostly doing it to let her know that I’m paying attention to her hard work and that I appreciate it. Afterward, I would make a big animated deal about her job well done. I'd say “Way to Go Zoey, I’m so proud of you. Thank you for helping out the family!” I’d give her a big hug and tell her that I love her.

I think she enjoys doing her chores for the monetary reward of course, but I think she appreciates the attention, love and praise that she gets more than the cash.


Speaking of cash, let’s talk about how the reward system went.

We ended up giving Zoey $1 per chore (laundry folding, vacuuming the kitchen and putting away the silverware). She really got into this part!

After her chores were complete, we would give her that $1 right away. For each buck she earned, we’d put it in one of her jars – Spend, Save and Give. Here's Zoey to explain more:

So we put $1 in each of these jars when she completed her chores. After the dollars went in the jars, we’d mark off a completed chore on her new chore chart in her room.

Again, here’s Zoey discussing how the chore chart works:

After a couple of weeks of saving up her money (and a nice easter gift from her Grandmas), Zoey had saved up enough money to buy a Moana costume with her savings. You know, the new Disney flick? She’s absolutely nuts for that movie right now. 

Spending Her Cash

We also went to the Dollar Store a week ago with some of her savings. I was extremely impressed with her ability to be selective at the store. She didn’t really want to buy anything at first, but eventually she bought some “Grossery Gang” toys. They are tiny little plastic toys that have disgusting faces on them. I don't understand them, but hey, they made her happy and it was her money.

All in all, I’m going to chalk this month’s challenge up as a success. My girl has learned some valuable lessons on hard work and she’s able to buy some fun things that make her happy.

The Give Jar

One area that I want to create a strategy for is with her Give Jar. We could use this jar to give presents to family, friends or to charities that Zoey feels passionate about. This is an area I’m going to work on with her in the coming months. This weekend, she did bring her kitty purse full of cash to church so she could provide an offering. So, I do feel progress is being made here already, but I want to help her by giving her some charitable options to consider. 

If anyone has any suggestions for me on any tangible and fun ways that my little girl can do some giving, please let me know.  

MKM Challenge: Budget Your Way to Wealth

For May, I’m challenging you all to start living on a monthly zero-based budget.

Yes, a budget. It’s not restrictive my friends. It is liberating and fun. Yes, the “fun” part is coming from a huge money nerd so take that with a grain of salt. All kidding aside, a budget will definitely help you take control of your money so that you can HAVE more fun.

Nicole and I started living on a budget around the time we got married and I would say that our monthly budget parties have been a HUGE factor in our financial victories.

Living on a budget helped us to pay off $50k in debt in 12 months.

Sticking to our budget helped us to start 529 college funds for our kiddos.

And keeping consistent with our monthly budget get togethers has put us on a path to pay off our mortgage by the end of this year

Nicole and I have a lot of other dreams we’re excited about reaching together. And we know that our monthly budgets, our steady communication and our collective drive will help us to reach those dreams together.

How do we get started?

Simple Spreadsheet

Nicole and I started with a simple spreadsheet. We outlined our combined income and categorized all of our expenses so we could assign a category to every dollar we earned. We would set aside a couple of hours each month to hash out our spending for each month and see how we did for the previous month. That worked well for us for a year or two. In fact, we paid off all of our debt using that simple spreadsheet.

Click here for a free copy of that simple spreadsheet.


In 2012, my sister and brother-in-law turned us on to Mint. And this took our budgeting game to the next level. Mint is an online personal budget management system that automatically syncs up your accounts (like your credit cards, banks and investment accounts) and gives you a real-time status of your monthly spending. 

Use the link below to create your budget on Mint in 10 simple steps:

We’ve been using Mint for 5 years now. It has some quirks but all in all, it is a great system for the excellent price of FREE.


This month for my end of the MKM Challenge, I’m going to try a new budgeting system called YNAB (You Need a Budget). I’ve had countless friends in the Personal Finance world tell me that this is THE way to go when it comes to budgeting. Philip and Julia Olson from the Art of Finance, my guests on from last week’s show, told me that Mint is like Freshman year and YNAB is like Graduate school.

Those awesome guests also hooked us up with a free 60-day trial of YNAB.

FREE Trial of YNAB

Challenge Mic Dropped

I’d love for your all to join me in this challenge with any of these budget choices. Living on a monthly budget can change your life and your ability to skyrocket your net worth. It helped our family immensely.

So, the challenge has been laid down everyone! Who is in? Please leave me a comment below and let me know how your budgeting process is going. Don’t beat yourself up by the way, it's definitely going to take more than 30 days to get it right.

On the first Monday of next month, I’ll share how Nicole and I are doing with YNAB and if we like it more than Mint.

Carpe Diem Quote

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” -Dave Ramsey

Who is in for the monthly budget challenge? Any Mint-junkies? YNAB-nuts?

Any tips for the chore and reward system?

Andy Hill

Andy Hill, AFC® is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and relaxing on his hammock.


  • Although I had to switch around the last two month’s challenges I totally rocked the grocery budget for April. I’m going to try to make that one stick for the rest of 2017, because that’s probably my biggest opportunity to cut expenses.

    And I’ll be taking it easy during May because I’m a YNAB pro (can’t be humble here…ha). I can’t wait to see how much you love it (because you will). There’s a slight learning curve, but 60 days is plenty to figure it all out before you pay for a subscription. My favorite features: direct import with the ability to also manually input (and linking between the two so it doesn’t duplicate), ability to specify tracking and non tracking accounts, ability to customize all categories, subcategories and the order they are listed and the mobile app.

    • Nice work on the groceries!! YOU were one of the first people to say YNAB is IT. Thank you! I’m looking forward to getting into it this month. Wish us luck!


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