When you teach kids how to manage money and get them excited about setting their own financial goals, it naturally follows that they will want to earn money of their own. There are lots of ways that kids can earn money. With the encouragement and help of their parents, even young children can have the satisfaction of earning their own money. Letting your kids earn money is a great way to build their confidence and teach them lessons in hard work and finance that aren’t taught in school
My 7-year-old is a little entrepreneur. She always has been. When she was younger she would see me do my Etsy orders and would get out her paper an scissors to do her own “Etsy orders,” as she’d call them. Last summer she and her brothers set up a yard sale with their things in the driveway. They got pretty disappointed when they didn’t have any customers (we live in the boonies).
Though not all of their ideas have worked out the way they had planned, they have had many successful business endeavors for being young kids. I think part of their drive to earn money comes from the goals they set. It’s fun to see them set their mind to something and then feel the sense of accomplishment that comes when you achieve your goals.
Here are some practical ideas to help you kids earn money. I’d love to hear some of your ideas in the comments!
My husband grew up in a family that raised much of their own food. His parents had (and still have) a huge garden. As a kid he and his siblings would ride their bikes around the neighborhood selling produce from their garden. The kids loved earning money this way and the neighbors were delighted to support industrious children (and they got a great deal on homegrown produce).
My kids have sold produce as well, though not door-to-door. During law school, we often went to a produce auction held by Amish farmers. It was a great place to buy produce in bulk for canning. Since it’s an auction, the prices fluctuate depending on supply and demand. One week there were pallets of large pumpkins that were going for fifteen cents per pumpkin, if I remember right. Of course, that meant you had to buy the whole bin of them. I have a hard time passing up a good deal (a trait that can be good or bad) and I had to make a quick decision. I bid and I won the pallet of pumpkins. Getting them into the car is a story in itself. After cooking and freezing some, and sharing some with friends, we set up a pumpkin stand and sold the rest.
The kids helped make the signs that they held up at a popular four-way stop near our house. When the sale was over, they were so excited to take their hard-won cash and choose their own fancy bike helmets, something they’d long been hoping for.
Not all kid crafts are created equal. Your three-year-old’s finger painting masterpieces look great on your fridge, but probably won’t sell to anyone but grandma. However, the bracelets your eight-year-old makes or the scarves your twelve-year-old knits may very well sell on Etsy or at a craft show. Starting an Etsy shop, is definitely not for all kids, but for an older child who is constantly creating high-quality crafts and has the motivational drive of an entrepreneur, an Etsy shop may be a great outlet and money-making endeavor.
Sell their own things at a yard sale
Kids often have a hard time parting with their things, even if they have outgrown them. Letting the kids set the prices and keep the proceeds from selling their own things usually gets them excited about purging some of their kid clutter. You might want to give some guidance on the pricing to ensure more success.
Lemonade stand and variations
A lemonade stand is the classic enterprise for kid-preneurs, and rightfully so. Having a bake sale or lemonade stand can actually be a really great way for kids to earn money. You’ll have the most success if your bake sale or lemonade stand is in conjunction with another event like a yard sale, sporting event, fireworks display, or parade. Have you seen kids pulling wagons with bottled ice water to sell at summer events? You probably wish you’d thought of that. Having ice cold bottled water can earn a pretty penny at the right place and right time. For more formal events, check your city’s regulations to find out if a food handler’s permit or vendor’s license is required.
Extra chores at home
Giving your children chores to earn money is a great way for them to learn the value of hard work. Our kids have chores that they do without pay, just because they are a part of the family. After they have finished their “free” chores, they can do extra chores for money. We try to hold our children’s work up to a reasonably high standard, so they learn to do a good job and take pride in their work. It’s a great time for them to learn to get the job done well, and to learn to save for what they really want.
Work for others
Once kids have learned to be good workers at home, they can offer their services to others, like relatives and neighbors. Help your kids think of age-appropriate services they could offer, such as weeding, washing windows, mowing lawns, snow removal, or raking leaves. Older kids can babysit or take care of pets and plants while their owners are on vacation. Have your kids tell the relative or neighbor about their financial goal (i.e. what they are earning money for).
Collect and recycle bottles
When we first moved to California, my daughter, the little entrepreneur, saw someone picking up cans and bottles on the side of the road and asked why he was doing that. When I explained that people can get money for recycling, her ears perked up. Ever since then, my kids have had their eyes out for cans and bottles. I don’t pull over for them, but when we go on a walk or play at the park, my kids are on the lookout for bottles to recycle.
One time there was a community event at the library with free food including bottled water. The kids noticed everyone putting their empty bottles in the trash, so the next time we brought a recycling bin for people to put their empty bottles in. We asked for permission and they were happy to oblige. A couple of friends saw them collecting recyclables at the event, and started setting aside their own cans and bottles for the kids as well.
If you live in a state where you get paid (well, refunded) for recycling, it’s a great job that kids can do. Even preschool age children can recycle. It may not seem like a lot at a time, but over the last year or so, the kids have recycled nearly a hundred dollars of cans and bottles, a fortune for a seven, five, and three year old.
There are several ways kids can earn money breeding or raising animals. Kids who are involved in 4-H can make good money selling the animals they raise at the local fair. If you’re not ready to go the 4-H distance, kids can raise other small animals like rabbits to sell locally.
As teenagers, my husband and his brother bred tropical fish and sold the young offspring to local pet stores for resale. All it took to start was a breeding pairs of swordtails, two fish tanks (though it eventually took over a whole room at 75 tanks and a few dozen species), a hunger to learn, and time. It wasn’t much of an hourly wage when all was said and done, but it was as good an income source as most early teens can find, and an extraordinary educational experience.
The summer is a great time to get your little entrepreneurs started. First have them come up with a financial goal. Ask them what they would like to save their money for. Depending on their age and interests, work together to find an idea that will interest your kids and give it a try this summer!
How about you?
- What have your children done to earn money?
- What did you do as a child to earn money?