A lemonade stand may be one of the most recognized ways young kids earn money before they’re old enough to take on a real job, but there are plenty more. From starting a business with friends to sell homemade items, to tutoring or selling puppies, there are many more ways for kids to make money than the traditional methods of mowing the lawn and doing chores.
An allowance for doing household chores is a good start to teaching children about money, and setting up a bank account so they can save 20% to 40% of their income will help teach them financial skills, said Daniel Penrod, a senior industry analyst at the California Credit Union League, which represents more than 400 credit unions with 10 million members.
“The piggy bank at home is nice, but it’s too accessible,” Penrod said. “It’s too easy to get to it and spend it frivolously.”
Because children don’t have daily expenses, such as rent and groceries, earning money can easily seem like discretionary income to be spent on candy and other things instead of saved for a rainy day or a long-term goal such as college, he said.
“Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend it,” Penrod said, adding that earning a dollar is the first step in learning the value of a dollar.
After hearing from a few dozen parents and kids, here are some unique ways that WalletPop found for kids to make a few dollars and take that first step to learning about finances:
Start a Business
Many of these ideas are centered around starting a small business, but the Pavelka family in Holdrege, Neb., has taken it to the extreme with more than 30 businesses started in 10 years. Their children, now ages 16, 14, 12 and 10, have had their own businesses since age 6, says their mom, Janita Pavelka. The businesses have included dog sitting, sunflower seeds, soap, teaching guitar, selling puppies, horse boarding, candy, gift baskets, raising goats and selling Peruvian jewelry.
Write a Book
Elyssa Freitas Fernandez, 7, wrote a book about career choices, which her mother put together for her and printed. Fernandez has sold 100 copies.
Run a Vending Machine
When she was a teenager, Jill Hart’s dad owned a vending service and she joined him one summer on his rounds, which required her to wake up at 4 a.m. He let her take “ownership” of one of the Coke machines, which she checked and filled when they went to that site, and she got to keep the profits. Doing this requires a parent who has a vending service job, but it points out the chance to learn to be your own boss at a young age and to learn from a parent how to make money.
Help AD/HD Adults
Work as a “body double” for adults with AD/HD, attention disorder hyperactivity disorder, recommends psychologist Sally Palaian. Such adults do a lot better if they have someone stand or sit near them to keep them focused on doing difficult tasks, Palaian said. For parents with AD/HD who need help sorting bills, for example, a child can either help sort or can help by just sitting there, she said. A child can also help out with paying bills, or other money activities for the family.
Join With Friends
Atlanta fourth-grader Michael Starr, 10, has been doing extra chores around the house and doing odd jobs around his neighborhood, such as washing cars for $5, for years and has saved $700 for after-college expenses. He’s run a few businesses from home — his latest called “AHA” for A Household Answer where he does chores for neighbors such as pet sitting — but his best ideas come from working with his friends. Starr and a few of his friends are starting a website to sell headbands they’re designing.
“A lot of the kids in our neighborhood are entrepreneurial, so when they get together and play, they come up with businesses,” said his mom, Gail Starr.
Azriel Kimmel, 13, finds things on sale at stores and then sells them on eBay for a profit. Two years ago Kimmel saw a popular video game for only $5 in a discount store and bought all 65 copies. He doubled his money selling them online. Last year, during Black Friday, he saw a netbook on sale for $85 and bought seven of them, selling them on eBay for $150 each.
Amy Sanderson recently helped her 5-year-old son sell his Fisher Price GeoTrax toys on Craigslist for $120. he used the money, along with some Christmas money from his grandfather, to buy an iPod Touch.
If selling toys they no longer use on Craigslist doesn’t work, there’s always the standard garage sale. Every kid has at least a closet full of old toys they don’t play with, so they might as well make some cash on them. Entrepreneur Ben Weissenstein, 20, started selling lemonade when he was 4 and now sells garage sale business kits through his business Grand Slam Garage Sales.
A 10-year-old named Ayesha writes reviews of children’s books on her website, and pays other tweens and teens 50 cents to $2.50 to write reviews. She earns money through ads and promoting children’s books and services. She puts 45% of her profit back into the business, keeps 25% for spending money, gives 5% to charity, and saves 25% for college because her mom couldn’t afford to contribute to her college fund during the recession.
Amy Smith, who blogs about kids and money, says that her three sons, ages 13, 12 and 9, earned $180 this winter shoveling snow in their neighborhood. Like mowing lawns in summer, shoveling snow is a smart first lesson in running a business. The boys don’t have a fee, but ask for whatever the customer thinks is fair, which Smith says gets people to pay more than they normally would when cornered with a price.
Heido Mylo of Venice Beach, Calif., sold mistletoe during Christmas when she was a kid, and passed the idea on to her niece, 13, and daughter, 7. They go to the mountains and pick it from trees and bag it, then sell it door-to-door or in front of stores with friends. They also connect the mistletoe to wire to make mistletoe hats with the mistletoe hanging in front of the wearer’s head. They’ve earned $100 on a good day and use it as spending money during Christmas.
If none of those catch your child’s fancy before they’re old enough to apply for a real job, there are always neighbors to ask for chores to do for money. As with everything else, there’s help on the Internet with setting up chores. The website 4Chores.com helps parents track chores and shows kids how to create fliers to help generate business.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.