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How to Make Money as a Kid (When You’re Under 16) 

What is one of the most hated tasks you have to undertake on a regular basis? For me, it’s cleaning and vacuuming the inside of the car: Where do all those mystery stains, wayward french fries, and random socks come from, anyway?

So when my tween was wondering how to make money as a kid, I suggested he take the dreaded chore off other people’s hands. I even came up with a clever name for his company, “An Inside Job.” We posted flyers around town, and he got that hand vac whirring.

We had to get creative because he was at that age where he wasn’t yet old enough to hit the mall or movie theater for “real” employment (in most states you have to be 16), but he sure was old enough to drain my wallet with requests to visit that mall and movie theater.

“As prime consumers of what’s most in style and popular, younger teenagers typically have a strong desire to earn some of their own money to do with as they choose,” says Sara Dimerman, psychologist and author of How to Influence Your Kids for Good. “They are typically quite motivated to find paid work that will allow them these indulgences.”

There are many answers to the question, How to make money as a kid? Many of us earned our first dollars babysitting, pet watching, or staffing a lemonade stand—still all fantastic options.

But there are other ways your child can earn a buck—or, hopefully, more.

When A Kid Is Too Young For A Job

“Mow lawns. Collect mail for out-of-town neighbors. Do other household chores for family and friends,” suggests Heather McElrath, director of communications for Jump$tart, a coalition of organizations that promote financial literacy among K-12 students.

If you or a friend owns a business, a younger teenager could help around the office with filing, updating customer lists, and the like, adds Dimerman. Tech-savvy tweens and teens are also a great choice for setting up smartphone or social media accounts. I had mine scan a zillion recipes I had collected and organize my photos online.

“Although I am not a fan of paying your child for chores around the house, it may be okay to offer money for taking care of larger jobs, such as pulling weeds or cleaning out the garage,” adds Dimerman.

Think of tasks they can do with minimal supervision so their job doesn’t also become a part-time job for you.

Earn, Baby, Earn: Best Ways To Earn Money As A Kid

Parents need to be cautious not to deflate their younger teen’s interest in earning money by doling out dollars every time he wants to download a new song or buy a latte.

“The best way to motivate teenagers to want to earn their own money is to be careful not to indulge every whim,” cautions Dimerman. That means that if your daughter is eyeing a new pair of jeans for her already-bulging closet, she should probably save for them on her own.

“It’s important for parents to encourage students to earn. But it’s also important to talk to them about what they are going to do with their money,” says McElrath. “The conversation can be as simple as encouraging a student to break their earnings into giving, spending, and saving.”

Finally, encourage middle-schoolers and young high schoolers to spend their dough on something that’s fun and relatively attainable, says Laura Levine, president and CEO of Jump$tart. “My opinion, both professionally and as a parent, is that it’s not critical at middle school age to save all their earnings for important or long-term goals.” Levine says that younger teens can learn a good work ethic, delayed gratification, and the pride of ownership by saving up for a bike or an iPad.

Cathie Ericson

Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. Read more about Cathie at cathieericsonwriter.com.