Summertime is ripe for boredom for kids out of school. The first few weeks are a break, but then too much free time begins to play havoc with once-active minds. I have found that children are happier when they are busier (though they may protest this fact themselves, but that just comes from that natural laziness factor). Busy hands and bodies keep kids out of trouble and developing confidence in their increasing capacities.
I say, "Make 'em work."
I really believe that children need to learn work skills and money skills from a very early age. Debt, consumerism, materialism, and selfishness could be headed off if the link between hard work and self-reliance is embedded in a child's mind. But it is admittedly hard to find things that kids can do to earn money, and to earn it frequently enough that they can really practice their budding financial skills, rather than taking their $1.25 to the store to buy a bag of candy.
I've posted before about our mission savings funds for the boys, and college/mission savings for Lyndsay. Small annual goals, that increase with age and maturity help the account to grow. When I was growing up, the oldest of nine children, most anything I wanted or needed past the age of 12 or 13, I needed to find a way to earn myself. I don't remember begrudging that fact at all. I remember feeling empowered, that whatever I wanted to get, or needed to get, I could find a way to get. I babysat, a lot, of course, but I also had a paper route for a while, and I spent a few summers working in my dad's law office. When I was old enough to officially get a job, I did, at Chick-fil-A, in the mall. And most times, I walked the few miles there and sometimes home, no matter the weather. That's just the way it was. And I'm grateful. I have sought to recreate that learning environment that came out of necessity, and still often does, for my own children, because I think kids today are far too indulged, and far too lazy. So, here are some of the ways that my kids have earned money, or could earn money. One important point I think is to create in children an entrepreneurial spirit, allowing them to take their ideas and run with them. Also, let them not have too narrow a focus. Sometimes the key to earning money at a young age is to have one's hand in several pots at one time.
And of course, here are the top three money guidelines that if learned from a young age, will bless financial lives forever:
1. Pay tithing first.
2. Set some aside in savings (if you're a kid, that should be most of it)
3. Keep the Sabbath Day holy and don't work on Sunday.
Having said that, here are some business ideas for kids and teens (and even adults!)
1. Babysitting. Of course. The old standby. And even boys can babysit. Since Lyndsay got her nannying job, several of her former babysitting clients have turned to Dylan, and he does a fantastic job. Babysitting pays differently depending on where you live in the country, but my kids have found it works best if they decide what they are worth (factoring in the area they live) and then letting the family know what they charge, rather than saying, "Oh, whatever you want."
2. Pet-Sitting/House-Sitting. For several years my kids have done this one. It's easy. They go to the house once or twice a day to care for pets and take in the mail. Often they walk to and from. They charge $20-$25/day. They've even been referred to complete strangers from other families, who, on the basis of the kids' reputation alone, turn over their house keys and leave for a week. That's a very nice compliment.
3. The Famous Lemonade Stand. But never, never sell just lemonade. You must have cookies and brownies. That's how you rake it in. Now obviously, you're not going to do this every single day, but kids could set a business goal to hold 3 or 4 lemonade/cookie stands in the course of the summer.
4. Gift-wrapping Service. Lyndsay was hired by a family that had hired her to do house/pet sitting before and was so impressed by her, that they asked if she was a good gift wrapper. I said, "She'll learn to be the best!" And she did. The husband bought gifts not just for his family, but for his employees and co-workers and wanted Lyndsay to wrap them all. There were over 100 gifts, and he supplied all the wrap, tape, and ribbon. Lyndsay charged $1.25 for small gifts and $2.50 for large gifts, and again, he gave her a key to his house (though you could arrange to have them dropped at your house) and she would go over after school and wrap for a few hours each time. It took about 2 weeks in all, and gave her some very nice Christmas spending money. If this sounds like a fun idea for your kids, prepare a flier and advertise a month or so before Christmas, because many people pay for professional gift-wrapping, and they pay a lot more than $1.25 or $2.50.
5. Car Detailing. My first husband had a job doing this and boat detailing when he was a teen and he was very good at it. Dylan has been hired to do the same from time to time. This is a job for a very conscientious kid, who has an eye for detail (and even perfectionism, when it counts). Sometimes he is hired to just do vacuuming of cars, because it's such a pain, but he does a great job.
6. House Cleaning. Lyndsay and Dylan have both been hired by others (and all of the kids by me) to do cleaning. They are all pretty good cleaners, which is important. You can't have some slobby kid advertising his cleaning business. They have gone to others' houses to do dusting, window/mirror cleaning, and other household chores. They are usually paid by the hour, similar to babysitting fees, but when I pay them, I pay by the job. Like, $2 per window. But I'm cheap, and I feed them for free.
7. Pooper Scooper. I know, I know, you laugh. But this is a great idea! Adam first cultivated this one for Dylan to have his own business, and I've read other places that it's catching on. Think about it: Lots of people have dogs. Lots of people go to work. All dogs poop. Most people hate cleaning up dog poop. Enter the desperate kid who wants a quick buck and some hero recognition. Seriously. Think about all the people that have dogs on your street. So, you make a flier and go door-to-door advertising your service of coming by once each afternoon or evening to scoop up the dog poop in the back yard. You charge anywhere from $1 (for a young kid or one small dog) to $3 (for an older kid and multiple dogs) per day. You don't go on Sundays. So you charge on average $10/week to keep the yard poop-free. Your child collects payment once a week, or once a month. For one house that is $40 a month! If your child is able to work for, say 5 families, that is some serious money! What if he got 10 families? And it doesn't take all that much time, but it teaches great principles like consistency, dependability, and the fact that no work is beneath him.
8. Recycling. I do this one myself, but I know lots of kids that do it too. Save the family's soda/water/milk containers and take them to the recycling center for cash. In our family, only Adam drinks soda, and we don't buy bottled water (except for food storage), so mostly we have Adam's soda cans and milk jugs, but I still earn about $10/month when I turn them in. I know it doesn't sound like much, but that's an extra $120 a year that I can buy food storage with! But what if you asked your neighbors to save their water bottles and soda cans? And you or your child had an agreement that you would come and pick them up once a week? Most people put them out on the curb anyway. I know of one family's teens that work together to collect recycling from neighbors and from baseball parks and they earn up to $400/month! This is another good one to add to a portfolio of jobs, and not have it be the exclusive form of income (unless you're working it like my friend's teens do).
9. Car Wash. Advertise that you're earning money for college, and get a bunch of kids together. Often times, businesses will allow you the use of their parking lot because it brings them business too. Maybe you could do this 2 times in a summer, work really hard, and then rake it in and split it evenly.
10. Yard Work! Dylan has a steady job taking care of the neighbor's lawn for $10/week (it's very small). Mowing, raking, edging, sweeping, weeding gardens or flower beds. . .these are all valuable skills to offer.
11. Dog Walking. Very popular here in L.A. Get your exercise, listen to your iPod, and make some cash! You can often walk several dogs at the same time, and you can arrange a schedule of 'regulars'.
12. Teaching. I know some teens that teach music lessons, swim lessons, sports lessons, or offer private tutoring. I know in our family, my ability to teach piano lessons has been a great blessing, and as my kids learn to play they will always have that skill tucked away for a rainy day. Learning not only a skill to pass along, but also the ability to teach others is very, very valuable. And private lessons pay very well.
13. Yard Sale/Ebay! Teens often have lots of old treasures just sitting around collecting dust and taking up space. Turn that into cash in the bank!
14. Cooking/Baking. I know some families who sell dinners and treats to other busy families. If you have a teen that loves to cook/bake, make up a flier, and offer to bring dinner or treats in to another family once a week/twice a week, or whatever! A night out of the kitchen and without turning to fast food could be a real boon to a busy mom, and would teach kids great skills in cooking, time management, and dependability.
I'm sure there are many other ideas. It's important for kids to learn to work and earn money, and if they have their own idea, go with it! We learn from success and failure, but mostly persistence. Set up a savings account and let them see their money grow. It is a terrific feeling. As they increase in capability and earning potential, require them to save more, but also require them to be responsible for more of their own needs. And don't feel badly about it! Better they learn these skills in the safety of your home, than the cold cruel world of college-life or married-life. And make sure they also do some work for free, at home, just because they're part of a family.
Now, get them to work! They will complain. The fun, and even the thrill of the buck will wear off, but push them through. When they complain, but do the work anyway, that's the time that character building is kicking in to high gear.