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As part of children learning the value of money, I believe it is important that they learn to earn their own money. While I could assign arbitrary monetary values to household chores such as cleaning, yard work, etc., I'd rather find something they can do with an objective monetary value. And I'd like to do so at as early an age as possible.

Yard-work is actually very close to what I'm after: I could have a child find out how much a lawn service charges and what services they provide for that, then propose that I pay them what I would otherwise pay (a competitively priced) service (less gas & machine upkeep). That's close, but then they could then make the same offer to others in our neighbourhood, and bring money into the household, and that would accomplish the goal.

What other possibilities are there? What about for younger ages?

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    I had a paper route as a kid, but I'm not sure that I've seen a kid delivering newspapers in the last decade. – Alex B Aug 16 '10 at 20:49
  • MMM had a very interesting post on this topic: mrmoneymustache.com/2015/05/20/… ; stresses learning about spending and saving as well as income. – timday Oct 4 '16 at 22:30
  • Give a kid money for chores and you'll quickly learn that he'll never do it again for free – mateos Sep 16 '18 at 2:57
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Another suggestion I heard on the radio was to give the child the difference between the name brand they want, and the store brand they settle on. Then that money can be accumulated as savings.

Saving money is as important a feature of the family economy as earning money.

Be careful with what you have a child do for reward vs what you have them do as a responsibility. Don't set a dangerous precedent that certain work does not need to be done unless compensation is on the table. You might have a child who relies on external motivations only to do things, which can make school work and future employment hard.

I would instead have my child do yard work, but while doing it explain opportunity costs of doing the work yourself vs hiring out. I would show my kid how saving money earns interest, and how that is essentially free money.

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    +1 for Don't set a dangerous precedent that certain work does not need to be done unless compensation is on the table. – George Marian Aug 17 '10 at 2:38
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    +1 earning money is great, but kids need to know they do chores because they are part of the family, not because they get paid. – Gabe Moothart Aug 19 '10 at 14:52
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    To clarify, I'm looking for things they can do to earn money from outside the family. Note in my original question, paying them to mow my own lawn didn't meet all my criteria--it was getting neighbours to pay for the mowing of their lawns that was an example of what I'm after. The concerns about paying for chores is outside the scope of this question, and has derailed the voting on answers. – retracile Aug 21 '10 at 13:45
  • Teaching Children to choose cheap own label over brand is not always a good idea it can be penywise pound foolish. Do what the upper class do by high quality goods and keep them for a long time over time not having to replace it every few months. For example Prince Charles is often seen in an a 25+ year old barbour jacket when hes in the country - ok they are expensive but will last a lifetime. Obviously this is when the kids have stopped growing 3 or 4 inches a year – Neuromancer Oct 17 '13 at 15:47
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Similar to the lawn care you mentioned: if you have space, you could have the kids create a mini-farmstand. They could grow flowers for cutting, some vegetables, etc. It would be a different twist on the classic lemonade stand.

If the kids are into animals and space and zoning allows, you could keep chickens and add eggs to your mini-farmstand.

Upfront costs for the garden would be small enough that they can learn about how investing in a business works at a very small scale.

Along with learning about money, they also learn responsibility because it requires commitment and daily attention.

It's also seasonal in a way that meshes well with school (though having animals is a constant year-round responsibility).

  • They'd learn some biology while they're at it -- bonus. – retracile Aug 16 '10 at 20:37
  • @retracile - Sure, that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's a great question. Biology, math, soils, economics, agriculture, social interactions (eg handling customers), accounting, law. – bstpierre Aug 17 '10 at 2:30
  • This is a great idea. The economy of the family requires producing what the family needs. – MrChrister Aug 19 '10 at 16:47
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@MrChrister - Savings is a great idea. Coudl also give them 1/2 the difference, rather than the whole difference, as then you both get to benefit...

Also, a friend of mine had the Bank of Dad, where he'd keep his savings, and Dad would pay him 100% interest every year. Clearly, this would be unsustainable after a while, but something like 10% per month would be a great way to teach the value of compounding returns over a shorter time period.

I also think that it's critical how you respond to things like "I want that computer/car/horse/bike/toy". Just helping them to make a plan on how to get there, considering their income (and ways to increase it), savings, spending and so on. Help them see that it's possible, and you'll teach them a worthwhile lesson.

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    That is great. My daughter will be banking with the Bank of Dad when she is older, but my wife has informed me my choices will be overseen by the MDIC (mom deposit insurance corporation) – MrChrister Aug 19 '10 at 16:49
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There is also babysitting, dog walking and house sitting. Depending on their age of course.

You should also investigate what is required to get them the ability to setup their own Roth IRA. I know one of the requirements is you can't put more into the Roth then was earned in income in the year. They might also have to file an income tax return (not sure about that one). Just think of how far ahead of the game they will be if they can get a couple of grand or more in a Roth account while in their early teens.

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    Some states in the US have labor laws when a child can work. Look into your state to see if you can make your child eligible. – MrChrister Aug 16 '10 at 22:59
  • @MrChrister good point. – mpenrow Aug 16 '10 at 23:49
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    Things like babysitting are usually in a different category than being employed. Even employment can happen pretty young with parental permission. I had some absolutely sweet internships in high school. – justkt Aug 19 '10 at 14:40
  • @justkt - absolutely I as was thinking eligibility for a Roth account, not if they can or can't work. Sorry for the confusion. – MrChrister Aug 19 '10 at 16:48
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If you're trying to teach them the value of money and quantifying the dollar difference between prices, one very effective way to do this is by using bar charts. For instance, if a toy is $5, and movie they really want to see is $10, and a vacation they want to go on costs $2000, it can be a useful tool to help explain how the relative costs work.

  • While bar charts may be a useful tool, that's not what I'm asking about. I'm looking for specific ideas for kids to earn their own money from outside the family. – retracile Aug 21 '10 at 13:54
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(Although I disagree with the idea of getting a child working a real job to early, (I think kids should learn at school, learn manners, learn what the world offers and have responsibility)

Here is a list of ideas that a small child can do. This is all assuming the child is to young for a work permit and a "normal" job. I am assuming your live in the United States.

  1. Run a lemonade stand at a garage sale. Offer the stand at other family sales.
  2. Work with a family member at a local fair
  3. Small kids used to run the concession stands at my baseball little league park.
  4. Offer chores to neighbors. Take trash cans out and back, yard work, haul away recycling
  5. Recycling the pop cans for the deposit
  6. Pet sitting
  7. Some sort of family business. You run a wood cutting business and have your kid help for example

Comedy Answer:

Amway. But forget about getting invited to birthday parties.

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