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Chores, Allowance and the Bank of Mom

Allowances, Chores, and the Bank of Mom

By Chris Jordan

Why don’t you ask your Mom for money? I’m sure you can do some chores or something.
My Mom doesn’t pay us to do chores.
She doesn’t?
Nope, she always says, “Do you pay me to do your laundry or cook your meals?”

I had to laugh when I overheard this conversation between my 10 year old son and one of his friends. It’s true, I do say that to my children.

Having said that, I always secretly envy those households where the children did all sorts of chores that were written down on an elaborate chore chart. Assigned chores never really worked out in my house. Mostly because I am too lazy to follow through and make sure that they are done properly or at all.  But ironically not so lazy that I don’t just do the chores myself.

If I ask one of my children to do something I expect them to do it. And I expect them to do it for no monetary compensation. And I expect them to do it without complaint, though that doesn’t always happen. After all, as part of this family they need to help make things run smoothly. I never really understood the idea of paying your children to unload the dishwasher, vacuum their own rooms, or take out the garbage.

I do give my children an allowance, but it isn’t tied to anything other than their existence. It is also a pretty meager amount of money, one-half their age in dollars. So my ten year old gets $5 a week, for doing no more than living in my house, breathing, and allowing me to do his laundry. While it isn’t a lot of money, it does add up. My 16 year old was able to put $2000 down on a car from money saved in his account.

This system has worked great for the younger years. Most of the “extra” things are done as a family at younger ages, for example going to the movies. And they certainly do not ask for things on a weekly basis. Other things they enjoy are free, going to the pool or the playground.

I am finding now with my older children that they want more things that cost more money than I am willing to just hand out to them on an ongoing basis. So I am trying to find a realistic balance. Let’s take my 16 year old son as an example. I pay for my son’s car insurance and registration. I pay for his cellphone. I pay for all of his extra-curricular activities and the accessories that go along with them. I pay for his clothes and shoes, though anything extra, meaning a THIRD pair of sneakers or yet another hat, he has to use his own money or wait for his birthday or Christmas. However, weekly he asks for extra money, for movies, food, or going places with friends. It appears to me that all of his friends have unlimited budgets. Unfortunately for my son, the Bank of Mom does not.

Even if I did have vast reserves of cash lying around, I would not hand it out thoughtlessly. I want him to be able to learn how to budget. So I am toying with the idea of giving him a larger sum of money each month and letting him spend it at his own discretion. The gas for his car, trips to Sonic, trips to the movies, unnecessary clothes, etc would all have to come out of that money. While I am fairly certain that at first he will fail miserably at this I can’t help but think it is better to learn the lesson now than later on in life when it really matters. In the future, the stakes will no longer be having to take the bus to school because you ran out of gas money, but rather losing your house because you didn’t pay the mortgage.

Younger children are easy because their wants are small. They don’t quite understand the work to money ratio, for them $1 is enough to buy a candy bar. They aren’t thinking about a $75 pair of sneakers. As evidence of this my 15 yr old paid his then 9 yr old brother $1 to mow the lawn for him. They were both thrilled at this arrangement.

I am curious what people have done or are currently doing with their older kids for allowances. How do you handle things like gas in the car or movies with friends? Does that come out of an allowance or do they just ask you for money?  Has anyone just given their teenaged child a lump sum of money each month and allowed them to figure it all out for themselves and fail if necessary?

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, they...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is a teen now.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

 

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Rebecca
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Rebecca

My kids are still too young for the issues you’re having with your 16 yo, but I can tell you at 16 I had a job and paid for all of my clothes and it was my hanging out money. My parents didn’t have any extra money so they would buy my sneakers and winter coat, paid my car ins and that is all. (My car was from a junkyard fixed up by my dad) I appreciated every single thing I bought, thought long and hard when I bought things like my 70 dollar Guess jean jacket (still own it)… Read more »

Rebecca
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Rebecca

My kids are still too young for the issues you’re having with your 16 yo, but I can tell you at 16 I had a job and paid for all of my clothes and it was my hanging out money. My parents didn’t have any extra money so they would buy my sneakers and winter coat, paid my car ins and that is all. (My car was from a junkyard fixed up by my dad) I appreciated every single thing I bought, thought long and hard when I bought things like my 70 dollar Guess jean jacket (still own it),… Read more »

Heather
Guest

I think givng your teenager a lump sum is a great idea, it will teach him how to budget and he will have to determine what is really important to him. I haven’t started giving my boys an allowance yet, though I know it is time to. Good luck!

AW
Guest
AW

My situation is a little different because I have 2 step children but this topic comes up often. My stepson is 12 and is constantly on the go asking for $5 – $10 to do things with his friends. His mom gives him allowance and who knows what he spends it on but he always needs more. We are going to start giving him his allowance and that will be his spending money for the extra things. We are starting off with $20 a month and that is all he gets. He will have to learn how to budget and… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Just out of curiosity, isn’t 16 the legal working age to have a part-time job? Wouldn’t that solve having to hand out lump sums of cash. I remember getting my first part-time job (that wasn’t the babysitting I’d done for years) at the mall. I loved earning my own money to buy all the “extras” I wanted as a teen, plus it gave me a great sense of independence. I still maintained excellent grades, played sports and had time for friends. I couldn’t imagine my parents dropping lump sums of cash in my account each month at 16! And we… Read more »

K
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K

I’m not a parent, yet, but I am only relatively recently out of my teenage years (I’m about to graduate college at 22). I have never gotten an allowance – as you said, when I was little I had few wants and what I did were small, and thus my parents often indulged them. When I got older, I simply was expected to work to earn my money. I started babysitting at 12 or 13, first only for family friends as a “mother’s helper” but quickly for friends of friends, and on my own. I was working coatcheck and then… Read more »

LMo
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LMo

My mother gave me a “lump sum” every month in lieu of allowance. It was meant to pay for all routine expenses, including clothing, meals and movies with friends, gas, etc. I also worked full-time during the summer and intermittently on weekends as babysitting jobs came up, but that was not enough money to keep me clothed and in gas money all year. I think it was a valuable tool–if I blew all of my money on an expensive pair of shoes, I didn’t get to go out to dinner with my friends on weekends. I think, however, that it… Read more »

Alissa
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Alissa

I don’t think I ever got an allowance.  But I got a job when I was 15.  My parents paid for my car, insurance, and gas.  But I paid for any extras I wanted, from the money I made at work.  Work never affected my grades – I wasn’t allowed to work on school nights.  Parents paid for a lot of college, but I am still paying of student loans.  And I worked through college, too.  No need for allowance – let your son go earn his cash.  He’ll appreciate it more.

Rebecca
Guest

We delegated a daily chore to four of our six kids. Seventeen y.o. does kitchen clean-up/dishwasher duty; the two 11 y.o. each have a bathroom and the 9 y.o. takes out trash/recycling. They are expected to perform the chore daily. For their efforts, they are paid $15, $10, $10 and $5 per week, respectively. (The 19 y.o. has a PT job and is in college. The 2 y.o. just hangs around being cute.) The paid kids are also responsible for keeping their rooms tidy and taking “special requests” if I or my husband have one for them. They also each… Read more »

april
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april

I think this is a perfect balance of reality and parenting.

D
Guest
D

We were also never paid to do chores.  The highest my allowance ever got was $10 per month (not per week!).  If we wanted more spending money, we had to go find a job. When I was 15 or 16, my mom decided she couldn’t stand taking me shopping anymore, so she looked at how much she had spent on my clothing, shoes, coats, etc in the past year and came up with a monthly average.  Then she threw in how much she thought I should be spending on bus fare to get to & from school (big city kids… Read more »

Bethany
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Bethany

I never got an allowance but was always expected to help with chores around the house. I started working as soon as I was old enough to babysit. I had to pay for most of my own extra stuff: dance camp, gas, car insurance, extra clothes, cell phone, movies, eating out, etc. My parents gave me the old hand-me-down family van as my first car. I took a full course load without a study hall, plus participated in lots of extra curriculars. I never got anything lower than a B in HS, worked about 20 hours a week, and survived.… Read more »

SarahA
Guest

I had a 10-hour a week job when I was 16 but it just paid for fun stuff. My parents paid for my clothes but not with a lump sum – my mom would bring me shopping. When I started taking University classes at night in HS, they would give me $4 for every lunch and $6 for every dinner I spent away from home because of school. I found the cheapest places to eat on campus and ended up with several extra dollars every week. When we were younger, my parents had a list of certain chores we were… Read more »

Cary
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Cary

If you are going to pay him a lump amount, I would still break it up into twice a month sums like a paycheck. A large amount of cash at once can be a little overwhelming. Also, maybe a summer job would be great. He could work at a sports camp, as a lifeguard, or I know the Cedar Park Center hires teenagers. Those jobs would all be fun with added benefits, but he should probably start looking soon.

Heather (Laptops to Lullabies)
Guest

Growing up, my mom said she’d either pay me allowance but stop paying for my treats, movie admissions, etc., or she wouldn’t give me an allowance but she’d continue to pay for that stuff (within reason). I was like, “No allowance, please!”

When I turned 16, I got a part-time job, and from then on I paid for everything myself. I really liked having my “own” money and not having to ask for it. I only worked 10 or 15 hours a week while I was in school, but it was plenty for spending money, eating out, movies, buying gifts, etc.

h
Guest
h

My kid is a toddler, but I’ll throw my two cents in (ha!). I agree with beginning to teach your son budgeting by giving him a lump sum and letting him decide how to spend it, though I agree with the poster to do it bi-monthly instead of monthly. When I was in high school I did some odd jobs during the school year but my parents made it clear that my JOB was school. However, the expectation was that on my summer breaks I worked and they stopped giving me money. I always did. I agree with not tying… Read more »

Grammy
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Grammy

My kids are both into middle age, so I guess it’s been long enough to determine how they fared. I gave them each a modest allowance just for existing, as you do. Then, when each turned 12 (at the age they became so insistent that nothing I chose for them to wear was reasonable for them to be seen in) they got an additional amount each month for clothing. My husband and I determined the amount we would have spent on the kid for a year for clothing, divided by 12, and gave them that amount in one lump sum… Read more »

suzie
Guest

I struggle with this issue, too.  While I understand the “get a job!” idea (and myself worked starting at the ripe young age of 13), I am very happy with my teen daughter’s involvement in sports, drama, and other extra curricular activities.  She barely has time to sleep, let alone to earn money (babysitting, petsitting, etc.).  We are looking for ways that she can earn money this summer, but during the school year, her time is occupied with valuable activities.  Fortunately, the more activities she’s involved in, the less time she has to go to the movies or eat at… Read more »

suzie
Guest

I meant to also say:  I give both of my teen girls their allowance in a single lump sum each month.  They have done very well at budgeting for the month, and seriously considering whether they want to make a big expenditure early in the month.  Yesterday was allowance day (which is also my pay day) – and my younger daughter went to the mall and spent half of her allowance.  She was aware of what she was doing, and talked about how it meant she’d have less spending money for trips with her friends to get pizza and frozen… Read more »

Jeannie
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Jeannie

My parents stopped giving me allowance when I was old enough to earn my own money — at 12, when I started babysitting. And they didn’t give me any money at all after that. Oh, they bought clothes and necessary things, of course. But spending money was on my own.  However, I’m not sure that’s feasible these days. For one thing, I’m a mom now and I sure don’t hire teenagers as babysitters, especially not 12-year-olds! Friends of mine with their kids gave them an allowance regardless of chores. They had set chores each week though. And THEN on top… Read more »

Melani
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Melani

I’m interested in what you decide and how it works out.  My mom just gave me money when I needed it until I was 16 and got a job. She didn’t want me to get one since I had so many other activities but I insisted and so she let me. She then proceeded to never pay for another thing again. I should have listened to her because I ended up giving up some activities due to my part time job and in hindsight it set me up for some more errors in judgement. It did, however, make me much… Read more »

Ellen
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Ellen

My parents were like you. I got an allowance, but it was just for being a part of the family. Chores were also an expectation and we didn’t get paid — we were part of the family so we had to help. When I turned 16, my parents upped my allowance to $100 per month. I was responsible for my gas, my clothes, any social/entertainment stuff etc. They still paid for my car insurance and any stuff I needed for school. Looking back now, I am really glad they did that. I definitely had a learning curve and had to… Read more »

Tai
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Tai

I do the vast majority of the chores around my house (taking care of the animals, cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping) in addition to my freelance job and college. 

I do get a small allowance of forty dollars a month, direct deposited in my bank account. My brother has the same deal, only he also has a part time job. 

My brother gets extra money from my mother. I don’t. The flipside of this is that I get money for vacations, and she’s purchasing my first car and insuring it for one year. I think it’s fair. 

M.
Guest
M.

I started earning my own money at the age of 16, while going to school, and immediately started contributing to household expenses. It seemed only fair. I still remember how proud I was of myself, and my parents of me. Just to think about it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to this day. I don’t know whether that would have been possible in the US though (I’m from Europe).

Kathy from NJ
Guest
Kathy from NJ

I started baby-sitting at age 13 and all that money ($.50/hr – it was the ’60’s) went toward extras. My two sisters also baby-sat, my brother delivered newspapers. Your son would be an excellent baby-sitter. I like the idea of a lump sum once a month but I would also like to see him earning some of his own money. All of my eight nieces and nephews worked – snow shoveling, lawn mowing, tutoring, baby-sitting (currently $15/hr!). One nephew wanted to take flying lessons at age 15 – his parents said yes but told him he would have to pay… Read more »

Tonuala
Guest
Tonuala

I have been struggling with this concept for quite some time. My boys are 9 and 7. I believed (or so I thought) that chores were not something that I would financially reward because it’s an expectation to contribute to the smooth operations of our house and home. But I’m also hearing so much on the other end of the argument about pride in earning and learning money management at an early age and all of that makes perfect sense as well. So, for now, they have a list of chores that they are expected to do (simple things like… Read more »

meredith
Guest

I never got an allowance. And when I was 16 I had to get a job for anything I wanted besides food from the refrigerator and when I was 18, I had to move out….which I did, all the way to France in a round about way and I never came back. I am not planning on doing the same with my own girls. For now at 11 and 13, they don’t get an allowance, but they do get what they want or need withing reasonable. Part-time jobs for 16 year olds don’t really exist in France and I’d rather… Read more »

Emily
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Emily

I didn’t get an allowance and my parents didn’t have the money to give me, so I don’t remember asking. It was expected that I’d get a weekend job when I turned 16. So, I did. They did take care of things I needed like lunch money though – food was always provided as well as school supplies and random necessities. Clothes, gas, outings.. that was all paid for from my weekend job. I worked Friday night and Saturday day, so still got Saturday night and Sunday to be a kid. And I do think that working at a young… Read more »

Bill at FamZoo
Guest

We give our teens a modest allowance/budget for expenses which they augment with money from their summer jobs.
As an extra incentive to get summer or part-time work, we match all of their W-2 income with a contribution to their own Roth-IRA. It’s our “Family 401(k)” and a great way to get them started on a long-term saving plan. Here’s a 2min video that describes it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBM8Ojt5uZg

Kate
Guest
Kate

We haven’t hit the allowance issue yet since our son is only 2 but my husband and I have discussed it. Our plan is pretty much to follow my brother and sil’s lead (my sil and I have very similar parenting styles partially due to both of us working in early childhood education). Their kids have a set allowance that they get provided they behave reasonably well and do their regular chores (stuff like making the bed and feeding the dog). They also have the opportunity to earn a small amount of extra money by doing major chores like washing… Read more »

Diane
Guest

It’s an excellent idea to give a larger amount, but expect your son to cover more of his discretionary spending.  Believe me, you want him to fail if he is going to in money matters now, when amounts are relatively small and the failures not life-changing.  The lessons he learns will stand him in good stead later on.  If he is one of the fortunate who can find a part time job (and they are truly scarce for teens these days) it will provide some extra funding. I started working as soon as legally possible – fifteen and a half… Read more »

Leigh
Guest
Leigh

Since my daughter is a Junior at school and has a car she is able to leave campus to eat lunch with friends. We came to an agreement that she would receive $100 per month. She quickly realized that spending $5 per day for a lunch was eating away at her ‘stash’. Now she comes home a couple times a week and I am happy to make her lunch for her. It took a while but she can now make better money decisions with that lump sum at the beginning of the month.

Christine
Guest

We give our two daughters (16 and 13) a modest monthly allowance, $20 for the 16-year-old and $15 for the 13-year-old, plus a twice-a-year lump sum of $200 to buy their own clothes. We expect them to pitch in around the house, keep their rooms clean, and do what’s asked of them without complaining. We pay for things like transportation on the subway, expensive items like boots or winter coats, and incidentals their allowances don’t cover but that we decide are reasonable. In short, we don’t have a very coherent policy, but it seems to work out for us. The… Read more »

Claudia
Guest
Claudia

My 14yr old gets $10 a week. He usually saves it up until there’s something he wants, such as the $65 just-out video game he bought today. He’s pretty thrifty so this arrangement has worked out well for us. There is the restriction that he’s not allowed to buy violent games that involve people shooting people. Alien robots fighting and jedi light saber battles are okay. We’ll see whether in the next year or so we encourage him to get a summer job. My husband says he should work. I kind of think that since he works so hard all… Read more »

Bailei
Guest
Bailei

I don’t have children, but starting at 13 I was put on a monthly lump sum for extras. All of my sisters were as well, starting at 13. Each of us handled it a bit different. I was a saver and was able to purchase big things because of it. Two of my sisters were spenders at first but did learn. They ran out more times than they now want to admit, but it worked out. It did teach us how to budget on a small scale and I do believe it led to us being able to budget really… Read more »

shannon
Guest
shannon

When I was a teen long ago- my parents gave me a lump sum for clothes shopping…. I got very good at deciding what I wanted to buy with my $$- sale shopping, etc my brother always bought 3 trendy shirts. lol my oldest is only 12. right now he gets $12 a month for his spending a $12 a month to go into a *savings account* – now that savings account can be spent for educational things like camps, rec programs etc if it’s above what i woudl send him to ( like the summer soccer camp which is… Read more »

Laura
Guest
Laura

I am currently 21, just for reference for when I tell ya what I did as a teen.  Until I was about…15, the only money I had was from birthdays and Christmas.  I didn’t get an allowance from my parents (was expected to do chores and stuff when asked), but then again I didn’t really have much to spend money on; my parents paid for clothes, school supplies, etc, and I wasn’t into shopping or anything until about 15 anyways.  Once I wanted to go to the mall or to the movies with friends rather than family, I was old… Read more »

Monica
Guest
Monica

Wow! You pay his cell phone, car insurance, and registration? Geez. I feel ripped off. I’m calling my mother right now. WTF? My first feeling was, wow how about a J.O.B?!? But, I bet you’re correct about the economy and availability of jobs for teens. I know I worked my butt of through high school. I was on a scholarship to a private performance arts school, and I worked to pay for all my books, required art supplies, and most of my clothes. My oldest is only 12, while I wouldn’t mind trying to get my kids reliable cars, I… Read more »

df
Guest

I started working very young and am grateful that my parents were supportive. I had a large paper route at 10, babysat from age 12 and got a first ‘real’ job (ice cream store) at 13 and never looked back. My parents did not model saving money very well, but I did learn a lot about earning money, job responsibility and paying my own way (and balancing that with doing well at school). While I still struggle periodically with just how much allowance to give my children (two boys, ages 13 and 8) and the best ways to help them… Read more »

Annie
Guest
Annie

My kids (now 23 and 19) babysat and mowed lawns for money starting at about 12, and they both were able to get jobs part-time starting at 14 (labor laws allow under 16 year olds to work under very specific circumstances). We bought them clothes for Christmas and birthdays, and we had an extra car they could use if they gassed it up. And, you know, we fed them and paid the mortgage. We also paid a lot of expenses for that free public schooling – book fees, activity fees. We paid half of their summer mission trip fees at… Read more »

The G-Ma
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The G-Ma

I will be 78 in a couple of weeks. I vividly remember being 16 and the allowance wars. My parents and I worked out what money I needed and what money was extra. My dad got me a sort of billfold thingy with 8 compartments, which I labeled appropriately. Then I got $16 a MONTH to fulfill my potential and my fantasies. This lasted until I graduated from high school. I got a part-time job the summer I was 17, so could buy some frivilous things; still got the 4 buck a week. I too had seven kids, and tried… Read more »

Carolyn
Guest

We recently instituted a new program for my oldest two children (15 and almost 17). The almost 17 year old worked last summer and earned half the cost of a 1996 Ford Ranger. The 15 year old can’t keep a penny in her pocket. I don’t believe in giving out money that isn’t tied to “something”. Employment doesn’t work that way and I think it shows children that they can’t just “be” and get paid for it. So money earned is tied to chores. They don’t do them, they don’t get paid. If I didn’t show up for work, I… Read more »

jillbert
Guest

My son is 13 so I’m not at the high school/driving stage yet where I know the expenses will get larger.  Our daily chores are unpaid, must be done because they live here type of things.  We do not give an allowance.  However, money isn’t really an issue.  My kids get birthday money from relatives (most goes into long-term savings) and my son earns money each week in the summer by mowing lawns.  He also babysits a bit for extra money.  He has quite a cash stash set aside and when he goes out with his friends (movies, lunch out,… Read more »

Cora
Guest
Cora

I hated the chores thing with my step son as he never did it, or only did it when he needed cash. So we changed it where there are certain things you must do as a member or the family (he’s with us 50% of the time) such as keep your room clean, put your clothes away, clean your dishes, etc. However, if he wants extra money then he will get paid $5/hour to do extra household work like cleaning the basement, deep cleaning the house, or doing yard work. Generally, he doesn’t want much so he always has a… Read more »

Mary
Guest
Mary

I saw your comment about how hard it is for a 16 year old to find a job and I wondered the same thing.  I know for my personally my company will not allow us to hire anyone under the age of 18.  The reason for this is because some states have very strict child labor laws for children still in high school.  Add to that an uneducated minority/illegal workforce and  an area where parents have more money than sense and kids who don’t need jobs because mommy and daddy are personal ATMS and there you go.  

Katherine
Guest
Katherine

I pay allowance the same way, 50cents per year of age. Our deal is you do chores as part of the family and you get allowance the same way. We pay for needs, like most clothes, school supplies, meals. The allowance is there for wants. They are also expected to spend their own money on gifts for family and to help buy gifts for friends birthdays. My 14 yo son pays for his monthly Scout dues out of his popcorn sales, plus part of his summer camp. My 17 yo son would like more money, but has been very laid… Read more »