Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
Taking your kid to the mall in December and giving them some money to buy a Christmas present for your spouse isn’t a financial lesson worth repeating. Yet every year it’s a ritual that many parents repeat because children don’t have jobs — and thus money — so they can afford to buy gifts.
It may teach them how it’s more blessed to give than receive, but it won’t teach them the value of a dollar and how much work it takes to afford that necklace, wallet or whatever they want to give their parents.
If a kid can walk, a kid can work.
I’m not talking about pulling your kid out of school to work 40 hours a week. That’s illegal. But they can work a few hours at home on the weekend. And I’m not talking about doing chores so they can earn their keep at home. They can spend that money — if they are paid for doing chores — however they want.
What they need are side hustles they can do for a month or so and save this extra money for a gift for their parents. Because unless you made it, if you’re not paying for something, is it really a gift?
Here are 13 side jobs that kids from varying ages can do to earn some money for Christmas gifts:
1. Dog walking: If your kid walks your dog, they can walk a few others in the neighborhood. Have them put of fliers in the area advertising the service or go door-to-door with them. And make sure your kid is OK picking up after the dogs they’re walking. No one wants a dirty neighborhood.
2. Pet sitting: A few apps make finding pet sitters easy. Sitters must be 18 or older, so if you sign up for one as a host, the pet will need your adult supervision. But that doesn’t mean your children can’t help. They can also ask neighbors and friends if they need a pet sitter when they go on vacation, either in their home or yours.
3. Washing windows: Get a bucket, soap, water, sponges, spray-on cleaner and paper towels and a kid can be in business washing windows. The windows should be at their level, so this may not get them very far, but with a small ladder they should be able to reach most one-story windows.
4. Recycling cans: Instead of putting your aluminum cans in the recycling container for the garbage company to take away each week, have your children put them in large garbage bags and take them to the recycling center yourself. They can also ask neighbors to give them their cans.
5. Babysitting: This is a job that should be left to older children, and preferably ones who have taken first-aid classes. It’s a time-tested way for teens to make money, requiring a lot of responsibility.
6. Yardwork, raking leaves: Again, these tasks may require a bigger, stronger teen and probably couldn’t be done by small children, but help pulling weeds or raking leaves can be a weekly money maker for a kid.
7. Garage sale helper: Spring and summer are the best times for garage sales, but a fall or winter one is possible if the weather cooperates. Ask your kids to gather everything they can sell and no longer use. Have them draw up some garage sale signs, and they’re on their way to making some quick money from things they no longer use but can be of value to others. Let them keep 100 percent of the profit from all of their items they sell.
8. Lemonade stand: This is most likely to work during the summer but can be changed to selling hot chocolate if your child is up for sitting outdoors in the cold. Or have them set up a table outside a church with hot chocolate and doughnuts for sale on a Sunday morning.
9. Make movies: With parental guidance, help your kids set up a YouTube channel and let them make a few fun videos to post on their YouTube channel. Ads can go up on the video, allowing them to make money.
10. Start an online business: From an online advice column for teens to picking secure passwords to just about anything they can think of, kids can very cheaply start a website to sell a service or product. A parent can help them set up the site and get advertising going, creating a passive income for years to come.
11. House sitting: If your neighbor doesn’t have a pet, they may still need a house sitter when they go on vacation. A child can help water plants, collect the mail and newspaper, turn lights on and off, and do a few chores around the house before the owners return.
12. Help the elderly: For a small fee, older children can help elderly people with simple tasks such as unloading and unpacking groceries, cleaning a house, sorting things, and doing chores.
13. Build birdhouses: For less than $5 in supplies, a teen who is good with a hammer and saw can build birdhouses and sell them online or in their neighborhood. Charging $15 or so for a good-looking bird house could give a kid an income year-round.
Whatever side jobs you let your kids do, make sure they’re safe and old enough to do the job. Always know where they are, and, if they’re going door-to-door seeking customers, go with them.
Then, once the money starts rolling in, tell them what you want for Christmas.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the Bay Area who specializes in personal finance writing and editing. He is a former editor at the Contra Costa Times and now writes for websites, including his own at CashSmarter.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronCrowe.