Frugal living means more than just spending money smartly in ways that meet your goals and add value to your life. Frugal living means spending your time smartly as well.
Most of us don’t have complete freedom of choice over how we spend all of our time. Parents of infants have feeding times. Young children have nap times and early bed times. Older children and teenagers go to school. College students attend classes. Both college students and teenager may have jobs, and most adults are employed or self-employed at some activity to earn money.
Once we’re out of school or class or off work for the day, most of us still feel there are things that we need to do before we can do the things we want to do. For most adults and college students, household chores rank somewhere on that list of things that need to be done.
If you live alone, it’s simple, there’s one person to do the chores, and that’s you. Parents can attempt to dictate which chores children do and when, but that often doesn’t turn out to be as easy as it sounds. Children and roommates can easily get into the “it’s your turn” battle.
Dividing Chores without Divisions
One simple way to avoid battles is to divide chores using the point system suggested in the promotional booklet “On the Homefront: Speaking for the Management” which was distributed by Kentucky Fried Chicken.
While parents will decide which tasks need to be done around the home and how often, roommates should meet to discuss their expectations and reach an agreement on acceptable cleanness and neatness versus extreme fussiness or slovenliness.
The next step is to create a chart with general headings along the left side such as meals, laundry, and housecleaning. Break the general headings down into the specific tasks that need to be done – taking inventory and collecting coupons and sales fliers to create the shopping list, doing the shopping, cooking, washing dishes, and garbage detail; sorting clothes, washing and drying clothes, ironing, folding, and taking out or picking up the dry cleaning; washing windows, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and cleaning sinks, the tub or shower, and the toilet. Parent should be sure to include tasks that are appropriate for their children.
Each task is assigned two numbers which are multiplied together to determine that task’s total point value.
The first number depends on how many times a week the task will be done. Parents will make that decision for their household, while roommates can decide among themselves what is suitable. Projects and tasks done once a week, such as mopping floors, get “ones.” Tasks done twice a week, such as vacuuming or cleaning sinks and bathroom fixtures, get “twos.” Daily tasks, such as cooking, get “sevens.”
The second number ranges from one to five and arises from a group consensus of how difficult, time-consuming, and repulsive the task is. Dusting, setting the table for a meal, or watering indoor plants might be “ones.” Washing dishes might be a “two.” Preparing a meal might be a “three.” Mopping floors or cleaning the tub or the toilet might be “fours.” A special project such as defrosting a freezer might be a “five.”
Inviting children to participate in assigning the second number to each task allows them to develop skills in evaluating, negotiating, listening to others, taking others opinions into consideration, compromise, and cooperation, not to mention math. Including children also gives them input into a family decision-making process and a role in the family. It allows children to feel that their opinions are being heard and considered and that builds self-esteem.
Household Task Chart
Difficulty/Disgust Factor Frequency Factor Total
Wash Windows 4 0.5 2
Dust 1 2 2
Mop Floors 4 1 4
Scrub Bathroom 3 2 6
Wash Walls 4 1 4
Wash Clothes 3 1 3
Sort and Fold 2 1 2
Iron 4 1 4
Pick up Dry Cleaning 1 1 1
Grocery Shopping 4 1 4
Cook 3 7 21
Wash Dishes 3 7 21
Who Does What
To divide up the tasks, each person agrees to take on a fixed number of household task points each week. Parents can help younger children decide how much they can do. Roommates should consider class and work schedules and other similar commitments. A roommate with a passion for saving money may want to handle shopping duties. A roommate who loves to cook may want to become the resident chef. Another roommate might be particular about making sure things are cleaned properly. Any roommate or family member with such a preference should be allowed to select the task he or she wants to perform before the blind selection begins.
If a roommate or family member has a lighter class or work schedule, he or she may offer to take on more household tasks for the week. If so, he or she could also be allowed to choose his or her tasks before everyone else participates in the blind selection.
For the blind selection, write the remaining tasks on one side of a slip of paper and their point values on the other side. Scramble the tasks and lay them, point side up, on the table. In families, separate the tasks for younger children from those for adults and teenagers. Each person then selects tasks based on the number of household task points he or she has agreed to perform for that week. Bargaining and trading are allowed so long as each person meets the number of household tasks points he or she agreed to perform.
Fairness and Flexibility
To be fair, you may want to keep track of who draws the less desirable tasks and keep them rotating. To avoid arguments, don’t rely on memory. When task selection is completed, make a chart of who has drawn each task.
College roommates may also want to renegotiate the number of household task points they agree to perform as class schedules change each quarter or semester.
Also in a spirit of fairness when using the point system, remember that conditions can change and unusual circumstances arise. When such situations occur, meet them with flexibility, not rigidity.
When tasks are shared, each person contributes fairly, and each person receives time for the things he or she enjoys.
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