Making money as a teenager
The following is a guest post by Pauline Paquin, you may know her blog Reach Financial Independence, Pauline has just launched Make Money Your Way to help readers diversify their sources of income with real estate, investing, entrepreneurship and online endeavors. You can follow Pauline on Twitter @MoneyYourWay. Pauline has been a huge help and encouragement to me as a young personal finance blogger. I am so excited and thankful to have her guest posting on my site and she has some great ideas about making money as a teenager!
I don’t really remember when I first started working because I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and have been looking for ways to make money for as long as I can remember. I would like to share my story to prove that it is pretty easy to make a little money as a teenager, and that it is never too early to start.
For example, when I was about 10 years old, my grandmother told my cousins and me that if we uprooted some bad weeds in her garden, we would get a few cents per root. We came back with buckets full of weeds and my poor grandma had miscalculated her rate, or underestimated us, so she ended up paying us an insane amount! My mum did the same for every cigarette butt we could pick up on the beach, she offered us one of those fake chocolate cigarettes. 20 butts and we would get a pack of sweets. My sister and I spent the whole afternoon cleaning the beach and ended up with enough chocolate to make the sugar rush last all summer. While we did not technically make money, we had more fun money since we didn’t spend on chocolate.
Then I moved on to baby-sitting my cousins. Being the older one helped, I was bored most summer having no one my age to play with, and started taking care of the younger ones. You could say I created my own job, because once summer was over, my aunts started calling me to take care of their kids when they went out. I was still under 12 years old, but getting used to multiplying my allowance by 5 or 10 just to watch TV while my cousins were sleeping. Life was good.
In my teen years, I then remember that I started to babysit a number of kids, my mum helped me a lot to find customers as she worked at my school and busy parents would come to her for guidance. She also found me some kids to walk back home after school every day and supervise homework for a couple of hours. It was great to start having a regular income during the whole school year.
My music teacher had me enrolled in the school band as the pianist, and asked if I would like to teach the piano to a younger student. She would lend me the music room at lunch time and I would teach a one hour lesson. A few months later I had a different student on each school lunch, and the homework kids in the evening. The piano lessons paid about $20 per hour and I think I was making around $15 per night with the kids. Add to that the fact that I was always looking for other ways to make money, I was averaging $1,000 a month at age 15!
During the rest of my teen years, I remember having done inventories for local shops, supervised classes on field trips, supervised the kids at lunch, taken care of pets while their owners were away, some house sitting, database entry, etc. And at 18 I started to work at McD, since I was now of legal working age. The hourly rate was less lucrative than the private lessons but I was able to work more hours in a row, and that job paid my rent and college expenses. McD offered teenagers the opportunity to work 8 hours a week (one full day, Saturday or Sunday), 15 hours over the weekend, or 20 to 30 hours a week, spread between evenings and weekends. What I liked is you just had to fill in your availabilities, and if you had soccer practice on Monday you could be off but still get a shift on Tuesday night. And working with a dozen of other teenagers was really fun too, it felt more like camp than the corporate world.
As you can see, if you open your eyes and look around, there are lots of opportunities to make money as a teenager. Here are a few tips:
Use family and friends
I am not a good seller, so I hate to force people to hire me, but if you make a good case for yourself (“Look, uncle Joe, you are too busy for XYZ, let me lend you a hand for $XX”) that is going to be the easiest way to start making money during your teen years.
You will know Uncle Joe is starting a business before he even registers for his operating license, so be there when he needs to move into his office, set it up, decorate it, and have someone answer the first calls.
Be the neighborhood’s multi-tasker
Not everyone has family living close by, so try to make yourself indispensable in the neighborhood. Put flyers under your neighbors’ doors offering a complete list of your services. This can include, but is not limited to:
- lawn care
- pool care
- dog walking
- house cleaning
- car cleaning
- computer repair
- running errands
- waitressing if they have a party
- taking pictures at their event
- being a DJ at their wedding
- tutoring younger kids who struggle at school
- help carry the groceries for your older neighbors
- seasonal jobs, blow the leaves, shovel the snow in the driveway…
- pick up the dry cleaning, a package at the post office… for those who don’t have a car
- teaching a skill you know well, a language if you speak two, how to use Excel, etc.
Your list may look a bit strange compared to a professional. Mine would go like “Hey, I am Pauline, I can help you start a website for your business, teach you Spanish, French or how to play the piano, babysit your kids and tutor your older ones”! But if you don’t mention ALL the things you can think of, you may lose on some business.
I had lots of odd jobs as a teen but also a ton of extra curricular activities. Piano, tennis, guitar, horse-riding lessons, I was a girl scout, played the organ at my church, etc. Every activity is a chance to meet new people and increase your network. Playing the organ at mass got me noticed by someone who was looking for a pianist for a lunch event at a nearby restaurant.
Let’s be honest for a moment. How long do you spend doing nothing every day? How many hours do you waste each week in front of TV or your computer? You do have time to work without damaging your grades or your social life. I had all those activities and still kept my grades up. But you will need a bit of organization. Put homework first, get it out of the way before you go to work. Don’t accept a shift or a job that is too far to commute in time if you get out of school too late. The more you do, the more organized you are, the more you can do. Strangely, the more jobs I had, the better my grades and my abilities.
PS: I graduated college and business school with $25,000 in SAVINGS. So yes, it was all worth it.