This is a post by my husband, Aaron. -Anna
I grew up, financially, in what I would consider to be smack dab in the middle of a middle-class family. We weren’t rich, nor we were poor. I sometimes got the things I wanted and other times I didn’t. I’m sure we experienced tough times, but I think my parents did a pretty good job of keeping us blissfully unaware of any financial troubles we might have gone through. Even still, I learned at an early age that money is important and I liked having it. So I always found creative ways to make a buck. Some of these ideas are for younger kids and some are for older ones, but they are all things I did, or heard about doing to make some money when I was a kid/teenager and they still apply today.
When I was young I found that most adults appreciated seeing kids seeking out ways to make money rather than asking for it outright. Making money as a kid teaches them how to start managing it, and how to start learning to spend wisely on a small-scale so when they are older they have some skills in place for adulthood.
24 Money Making Opportunities for Kids…
1. The Allowance
When I was growing up, I was never really given an allowance, but that was mainly because my parents didn’t ask much of me, my brother or sister. I remember, on occasion, they would bribe us with the possibility of an allowance and we’d be more inclined to do some chores around the house only to discover on pay-day that’d we’d only be getting 50 cents, so I wasn’t that motivated by their bribes. Some parents though, they pay BIG, so negotiate your rate and get to work. (Anna said that she had a friend growing up who got $10 a week… now that’s big time.)
2. Lemonade Stand
I remember trying this once. I didn’t grow up in a “neighborhood” so to speak. Our house was (and still is) situated about 100 yards off the road and the houses weren’t close together. We didn’t get much (if any) foot traffic and I wasn’t set up in a convenient spot for people to pull over so it was a complete bust for me sitting in the woods 100 yards off the road… but if you’re a kid living in a nice suburban neighborhood, this could be a great entrepreneurial enterprise on a hot summer day. Think outside the box and offer something other than lemonade to set yourself apart from neighborhood competition. (When Anna was growing up she says that they -her sisters and some neighbor kids- sold their art on the corner.)
3. Christmas and Birthdays
When these days roll around, it’s like winning the lottery when you’re a kid. My christmas list, among other things, usually just included a simple request for money, and as I got older, my grandparents and other extended family members stopped getting creative with gifts and just started to give me cards with “cold hard cash” in it. If a kid play’s their cards right and spends conservatively, they can leap-frog from one holiday to another and not have to find ways to hustle for work.
4. Report cards
I never got paid for my grades (it was more that I just didn’t get grounded if I did good). But academic excellence is a thriving business if your parents motivate with money. I remember some kids scoring big when they brought their report cards home getting upwards of $5 an A. Depending on how many subjects you have and your grades, report cards can equal a very lucrative pay check.
5. Be Cute
This only works for the extremely young and extremely cute. My little niece just runs up to me with her hand out, thumb in her mouth and bats her eyes. I can’t get the money out my pocket fast enough. I’m not the only softie this works on… Anna’s nephew started calling her “Mommy Anna” and she was ready to buy him a pony. The “Be Cute” technique is only going to work for so long, so exploit all those that you can, now.
6. Bake Sale
We’ve all had to sell something at some point in our lives. I remember peddling around boxes of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to raise money for my baseball team. We were required to sell a certain amount and I have no idea where the profits went. We always seemed to have the same crappy equipment and smelly uniform so rather than sell things to raise money for other people, whip up a batch of cookies or brownies and sell those goodies to the same people and keep the money for yourself.
7. Sell Your Toys
Being that I officially didn’t buy the majority of my toys, I had to ask my parents before I sold them (and it was nice that they let me keep the profits) but I made a pretty penny selling my old Sega games. I mainly sold them so I could upgrade to the Sega Genesis though. As I got older I sold all types of things to my friends who desperately wanted what I had. I remember selling: BB guns, slingshots, and actions figures. If I wasn’t emotionally attached to a toy, and someone wanted it, I sold it. Big profits come when the said object is something the other parents forbid that kid from having. Sure, you are risking major trouble if you (or they) get caught, but sometimes money talks.
My dad and I collected cans for years, and we had pretty much everyone we knew saving their cans for us. We’d crush them up and stash them in huge black garbage bags behind the house. Then, a few times a year we’d take them to the recycling center. I don’t really remember how much money we’d get, but I do remember getting a cut of the loot. Plus it helps the environment, so get to collecting.
9. Sell Candy
My best friend growing up had quite an enterprise selling candy at school. His parents would go to Sam’s Club and buy Jolly Ranchers in bulk, which in turn he’d sell them to desperate kids needing a mid-day sugar rush. He was making 20 bucks a day. Your school may have rules preventing this, but if they don’t or you chose to be a rebel and break the rules, you could bank some nice coin.
10. Mow Lawns
Mowing lawns was my bread and butter (Anna has told me this is how her and her siblings banked the most money too). I made a living mowing my great-aunt Effie’s lawn. She basically supported me through my early teen years and I consider her my first employer. She was overly generous when it came to compensation, paying me way more than I deserved. Usually in the $20 range, extra if I did the trimming. As I got older I went into business with my Grandpa and our lawn mowing empire expanded from one lawn (my aunt’s) into two lawns (my next door neighbor’s farm). It was a pretty good deal. My Grandpa would provide the riding tractor and gas and mow the areas around the house. I was responsible for mowing the back acreage. The money was good, usually $20-25. I think we always had hopes that we’d pick up a few more lawns, but we never grew beyond those two yards. If you find the right clients you can roll your lawn mowing service into other areas of opportunity through the entire year (see the next couple of suggestions).
11. Rake Leaves
Growing up, we lived in the woods and when fall rolled around raking leaves easily become a full-time job. I never got paid to rack. I racked for the more selfish reason of creating massive piles to jump into and probably in the end probably created more work for my dad. If I would have demanded payment for racking leaves, I would’ve just been denied but some people, especially the elderly, love help around the yard, so start asking around.
12. Shovel Snow
Again, I made a killing shoveling snow for my Aunt Effie. Ironically, she didn’t know how to drive, so I’m not sure why she always wanted her driveway shoveled, but on snow days I’d race up to her house (hopefully beating my brother to the gig), and shovel out her driveway and sidewalk. The pay scale was again in the upper $20’s, and was usually accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate. A bonus was given if I shoveled out her mailbox on the opposite side of the street. I made enough from her pay alone that I didn’t need to shovel anyone else’s driveway, but if I would have only made a few bucks, I would have definitely searched out more snow removal jobs.
13. Start Your Own Enterprise
My friend took this concept to the extreme one summer when he and his dad invested in an old beat up ice cream truck. The company was called “King’s Cream” and I was a briefly an employee. The concept was shorted lived, lasting only one glorious summer (because we ate more product than we sold), and any profits he did make he had to give to his dad to pay for gas and inventory. I didn’t actually get paid either. I took my compensation in the form of Choco Tacos and Klondikes. Hey, it worked for me. The truck soon become nothing more than a novelty to have sitting around at family picnics, but the idea was a good one. Clean pools, deliver groceries, it doesn’t matter, if you have a good idea for a small business, try to start it up.
14. Become a Tutor
In all honesty, I was usually the one being tutored….math always got me. I was usually tutored by teachers in school during recess but I remember my parents shelling out money to my brother’s 5th grade tutor. So if you have the brains, put them to good use and start charging people for your knowledge.
I never babysat any kids; it really wasn’t my thing, but my sister did quite often and she made a lot of money doing so. Start out with family members then try expanding your services to the neighborhood. If you’re reliable, have competitive rates, and are CPR and 1st aid certified you can have a lucrative gig going.
16. House Sit
I did do my share of house-sitting. In most case it was usually just for vacationing family members but I still got paid and pretty much ate everything they had in the fridge.
17. Dog/Pet Sit
Usually when I house sat, watching a dog (or other pet) was included in my services, but it can actually be a whole separate business. People love their pets and when those pets can’t go with them on vacation, they want the best possible care for them and will pay big for their care.
18. Dog Walk
I never had a dog growing up and the dogs I did know usually just ran around freely, so they were never in need of a walking, but if you live in the right area and know a lot of people with dogs, dog walking is one of the easiest ways to make a quick buck when you are a kid. When you are back at the person’s house try this add-on technique: try to tack on the dreaded job of pooper-scooper-upper and clean up their back yard. It’s definitely not pleasant, but charge by the turd and you’ll make a killing.
19. Paper Route
I never had a paper route but my cousin did so my brother and I ventured along with him a few times. It seemed like a lot of work, and then there was that time that a bird crapped on my head and my brother beat me with the straps of my cousin’s newspaper satchel. That experience ended my paper boy career but just because it wasn’t a good fit for me doesn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t enjoy a paper route and profit enormously from one.
My dad always had some sort of garden growing and most years I’d help him tend to his crop. Some years it was better than others, but the harvest usually consisted of a variety of peppers, zucchini’s, and tomatoes. He’d usually freely share the bounty but that’s not to say you couldn’t sell your produce to neighbors and friends.
Your hobbies could net you some serious cash. I attempted to collect a lot of things throughout my childhood: baseball cards, coins, stamps, comic books, you name it. I never stuck with collecting one specific thing for too long though. My interests were always changing and I wasn’t serious enough about collecting (unless it was Garbage Pail Kids cards) so I wasn’t good at it. But if are a serious collector, check your inventory because you could be sitting on a gold mine. If you have the will power not to sell your collection now, you could be setting yourself up for a nice bonus later in life when you are ready to part with your valuables.
22. Wash Cars
I washed my mom’s car a lot. Usually, it wasn’t for money but to sweeten her up before I asked to borrow it but washing cars for cash can be profitable. Charge more by offering to clean the inside of cars as well.
23. First Job
I’m not into robbing a kid of their youth, but if they want to get started on their own independent financial journey, I wouldn’t stop them. I got my first job when I was 15 (Anna did too). I was a cashier at Mobil Mart and worked the weekend shift. I started out at $4.75 an hour. Amazingly, I kept this job through high school and my first year of college. When I quit I was making roughly $6 an hour. Laws vary state to state, but most fast food joints hire almost anyone and I think you only need to be 14. If fast food isn’t your thing, bus tables at an upscale eatery, wash dishes, bag groceries, whatever…the job opportunities when you are 15 are endless (even if there are limited hours that you’re allowed to work).
24. Summer Jobs
I supplemented my weekend job with landscaping jobs during my summers. I was the “trimmer” and could weed whack the hell out of any lawn. I made $10 an hour at this job, which I thought was pretty sweet. There are tons of summer job positions out there. Lifeguard, work at an amusement park, be a camp counselor, it doesn’t matter.
What were some of your favorite ways to make money as a kid? How do you encourage money management and financial education in the children you know?
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