The lemonade stand — it's a summertime ritual as American as apple pie and Slip 'n Slides. You and your little sister pull a card table up the driveway, mix up a watery batch of Crystal Light, arrange a stack of Dixie cups and tack on a hand-scrawled sign reading, "Leminade, 25¢."
Or so you've heard. Does anyone really do lemonade stands anymore? And can you make any money doing them?
Money-wise, not much. Not unless you can get folks to pay $3 a glass. And strangely, the lemonade stand is technically illegal in most U.S. states, cities and municipalities. Don't believe us? Check out LemonadeFreedom.com, one of several grassroots organizations opposed to the national crackdown on unlicensed, unregulated food and beverage stands staffed by children.
If not a lemonade stand, how else can a kid make money? Did your parents tell you about the paper route they had growing up? Nowadays, very few local newspapers hire kids as carriers anymore. In 1990, 70 percent of paper carriers were kids. By 2008, that number dropped to 13 percent [source: Vanderbilt]. Most newspapers now hire "independent contractors," typically an adult with a car.
But forget about lemonade stands and paper routes. We've got 10 much more creative and lucrative ways to make money, even if you're under 18.
Sell Arts and Crafts Online
Do you love making stuff? You could sit down with a ball of string and crank out a dozen friendship bracelets in an hour, right? But since you have only so many "BFFs," what do you do with the surplus trinkets? Sell them online, of course!
Etsy.com is a wildly popular online marketplace for handmade crafts, jewelry, clothing, art and ironically embroidered throw pillows. Thousands of people have set up virtual shop on Etsy and a few of them make a lot of money. The rest are content to sell a handful of oversized scarves or vintage skirts for the extra cash. Is there someone out there willing to fork over $5 for your bubble gum sculpture? There's only one way to find out.
True, you need to be 18 or over to hold an Etsy account, but your parents or guardians can put the account in their names. Etsy is not free; it costs 20 cents to list an item, and the company takes 3.5 percent of each sale [source: Etsy]. Think of it as your first lesson in e-commerce.
Pet Sitting and Walking
Are you constantly pestering your parents for a dog, cat or herd of pygmy goats? Why don't you channel that animal-loving energy into a career as a neighborhood pet sitter or dog walker?
Pet sitting is a particularly valuable service during the summer months and over winter or spring vacations, when families go on extended trips. It costs between $30 and $50 a night to board a dog at a kennel. For half of that amount, an enterprising pet sitter could offer to walk the pet, feed it and play with it while the family is away. It's a bargain for the pet owners and a boon for your piggy bank.
A dog-walking service is trickier because it's harder to work around school hours. But with some careful canvassing of neighbors, you might find someone with an older dog that doesn't need to go out as often, but can still use an afternoon trot around the block. Check with the dog's owners that it is kid-friendly and has all its shots.
There's not as much need for cat walking. But cat sitting is a pretty sweet deal, if you can get past the whole litter box thing. To get started in your business, put up some flyers in your neighborhood mailboxes or bulletin board offering your services. Or post your services on a neighborhood Listserv if you have one.
Mowing and Shoveling
Mowing lawns for the neighbors (or your parents) is still a viable way to make some extra money during the warm months. And if you live in a snow-prone state, you can extend your services into winter with early-morning driveway shoveling or snow blowing.
Like pet sitting, lawn mowing offers an excellent opportunity to undercut the prices of professional competitors. The least expensive lawn service will charge a minimum of $30 for a small yard, not including things like fertilizing, weeding, shrub-trimming and crab-grass prevention. By knocking on doors, you are likely to find a neighbor or two who wants a cheaper alternative. You can decide whether you just want to focus on grass cutting or include other services like weeding. Because this is tough work, you might want to pair up with a buddy to save time, though you'll have to split the profits.
For safety reasons, you should be over the age of 12 to operate a walk-behind mower and over 16 to operate a riding mower [source: AAP]. The same caution should be used with snowblowers, so ask an adult before using any heavy machinery.
Sell Used Stuff Online
Garage sales are so 1994. If your parents have a lifetime's worth of old toys, gently used furniture or outdated electronics piled up in the attic, grab an industrial-strength garbage bag, toss out the true junk and sell the rest online. Twenty-something millionaire Cameron Johnson was only 12 years old when he made $50,000 selling his sister's Beanie Baby collection [source: Miley]. He had her permission, of course.
After you've cleaned out the attic, you could also make the rounds at local garage sales, thrift stores and junk yards looking for undervalued merchandise that can be sold for a profit online.
Sites like Craigslist and eBay are ideal for converting all that trash into someone else's treasure. It's also a great way to learn valuable marketing skills like "How to take a blurry, low-light picture of a grungy old desk to make it look brand-new."
Along with that picture, you'll need to write an appealing description of the item for sale; check other site listings to get an idea of what others are charging for the same merchandise. If you have to meet the buyer in person to hand over the item, be sure a parent is present, so you don't get ripped off.
Grow Your Own
With nothing more than some fertile backyard soil and a handful of seeds, you and your friends can grow vegetables, flowers and fruit to sell around the neighborhood.
All across America, the local food movement is booming. What's more local than food grown two houses down the street? You can add value to your produce by growing it organically — no chemical fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides — and focusing on eye-catching heirloom varieties that neighbors won't find in the store.
As with the lemonade stand crackdown, you could run into trouble if you set up an unlicensed produce stand in your front yard [source: McSweeney]. But there are many other ways to market fresh food and flowers. You can ask your neighbors if they want to sign up for a weekly garden harvest. For a fixed price, you can deliver them a basket of seasonal vegetables and fruit, or some fresh-cut flowers all summer long.
If you don't want to commit to a full growing season, concentrate on holiday sales. For example, grow potted flowers in a sunny window and sell them door-to-door as Mother's Day gifts. Or if you have a big backyard, raise pumpkins for Halloween.
In 1905, an 11-year-old named Frank Epperson left a sugary drink on the porch overnight with a stirring stick in it. Since it was winter, the concoction froze by the morning and Frank had a tasty new invention, the "Epsicle." He patented his frozen treat in 1923, renamed it the Popsicle, and the rest is sticky-fingered history [source: Popsicle].
Other world-changing inventions by kids and teens? Earmuffs, Braille and the trampoline (that one actually makes sense) [source: CNBC]. Inventions don't have to be technically complex or revolutionary. Heck, someone had to dream up the Snuggie — "The Original Blanket With Sleeves" — that has sold tens of millions of units [source: Nobel].
Here are some inventing tips from the promoters of Kid Inventors' Day:
- Read books about famous inventors like Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin
- Carry a notebook to jot down ideas and sketch designs
- If you have a great idea, do a patent search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site
- If you are the first one with the idea, file a provisional patent application
- Build or create a prototype
- Present your invention at science fairs or community events, or seek out a company that wants to license, manufacture and sell your idea [source: K.I.D.]
Start a Blog
According to 2013 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a full 95 percent of U.S. teens (12-17) use the Internet on a regular basis [source: Pew]. Like everyone else, they seek out voices they can relate to and look for personality-driven blogs that mirror their interests.
In other words, they're looking for you. Are you a budding fashionista, music critic, political commentator or pop-culture fanatic? Then start a blog. Free blogging software like WordPress and Blogger makes it easier than ever to create a professional-looking site to host your original writing, photos, artwork, music and movies. Even better, if the blog starts to draw some serious traffic, you can make money through services like Google AdSense.
Who knows, you might even become the next Tavi Gevinson, the fashion icon behind The Style Rookie, the influential lifestyle blog she launched at the ripe age of 11.
Before you launch a blog, have a serious discussion with your parents about online safety. The FBI has some helpful tips, like do not give out school names, addresses and other personally identifiable details. And think about whether you want people to comment on your blog and what you would do if the comments turn mean.
Invest in the Stock Market
This is a good idea for the teenager who's earned a nice chunk of change from a summer job and wants to see that money grow even more. By investing in the stock market, you learn the basics of how the market works, the risks and benefits of investing, and the identity of this "Dow Jones" character is that they're always blabbering about on the news.
You have to be over 18 to have your own brokerage account. So, start with your parents' investment accounts, adding your money to their portfolio of stocks, bonds, CDs. When your folks get their monthly statements, have them show you how the changing price of different investments affects the overall value of the portfolio. Your parents might even let you choose a specific stock to buy, and then you can follow news headlines about the company, its earnings and its stock price and see how these components work together. Later, they could open a custodial account for you where they make the investments on your behalf, but the proceeds must be spent on you.
Another strategy is mutual funds like the Monetta Young Investor Fund or the USAA First Start Growth Fund. The Monetta fund has a $100 minimum initial investment with automatic monthly investments as low as $25, plus it sends age-appropriate "financial literacy kits" with newsletters, games and other perks to investors as young as newborns.
Get Freelance Gigs
There is an explosion of Web sites like Fiverr and Gigbucks where people offer freelance skills and services for as little as five bucks a job. These "micro job" sites offer everything from logo design to silly customized songs to voiceover acting. Do you have a unique or eccentric talent or skill that's worth five dollars to a complete stranger? It's worth a try.
Maybe you are a budding cartoonist. You could draw an original cartoon or customized caricature based on a client's picture. If you're a young Web designer, you could hone your skills building a stylish home page for someone's professional Web site or personal blog. Maybe you just have some hilarious dance moves. You'd be amazed how many people might pay for a custom dance video with a personalized "Happy Birthday" message. It's usually free to post a gig, but expect to lose a dollar from your fee as a service charge.
Sometimes it's best to stick with the classics. Babysitting has been filling piggy banks for generations, but if you want to break into the baby-tending business, here are some things to know.
First, you need some experience. Start by babysitting your own brothers and sisters to see if you even like the idea of feeding and cleaning up after rug rats. Then you might want to work for neighboring families as a "mother's helper." A mother's helper is like a babysitter, but you watch the kids while a parent is still at home. This frees up the parent to work on other projects, and gives you experience in a safe setting.
Before you start advertising your babysitting services, consider taking a Red Cross babysitting safety course that covers feeding babies and kids, playing safely and what to do in an emergency. There is also a more extensive "Babysitter's Training" classroom course that includes certification in Pediatric First Aid and CPR [source: American Red Cross].
Once you get some clients, arrange for a "get to know you" meeting before the first babysitting gig. You will want to discuss the house rules about TV, food, computer use, bedtime rituals and so on. You can also make sure you have the parents' contact information and appropriate emergency numbers [source: PBS Kids].
For lots more information about kids and family activities, and personal finance tips, check out the related HowStuffWorks links on the next page.
Dollar stores — where most items cost just a buck — always seem to make money. HowStuffWorks finds out how they do it.
Author's Note: How to Make Money as a Kid
As work-weary adults, we underestimate the joy that a child gets in performing a task well and earning a reward. Earning money as a kid not only teaches the value of hard work and instills financial sense, but it builds confidence and self-reliance. I regret that I didn't do more to earn my own money as a kid. Not that there were toys and gadgets that I would have bought with the extra cash, but I could have used the self-confidence bump that comes with doing a good job and being valued for your work. Now that our own small kids are entering the allowance years, it's time to dispel the myth that money grows in ATMs, but that an honest day's work has its rewards.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. "Lawn Mower-Related Injuries to Children." (March 15, 2013) http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/6/1480.full
- American Red Cross. "Babysitter Training." (March 15, 2013) http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/program-highlights/babysitting-caregiving
- CNBC.com. "Inventions by Kids." (March 13, 2013) http://www.cnbc.com/id/42497934/page/1
- Department of Labor. "What is the youngest age at which a person can be employed?" Fair Labor Standards Act (March 15, 2013) http://www.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/026.htm
- Etsy. "Dos and Don'ts." (March 15, 2013) http://www.etsy.com/help/article/483
- McSweeney, Terry. "Young girls fight produce stand closure." ABC 7 News. Aug. 20, 2008. (March 15, 2013) http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local&id=6339365
- Miley, John; Snider, Susannah. "How to Be a Millionaire by 25." October 2010. (March 15, 2013) http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/business/T012-S001-how-to-be-a-millionaire-by-age-25/index.html
- Nobel, Carmen. "Snuggie Cashes in Where Others Failed." The Street. Jan. 13, 2010. (March 15, 2013) http://www.thestreet.com/story/10660101/1/snuggie-cashes-in-where-others-failed.html
- PBS Kids. "Babysitting: One Important Job." (March 15, 2013) http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/money/babysitting/index.html
- Pew Internet and American Life Project. "Teens and Technology 2013." March 13, 2013 (March 15, 2013) http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teens-and-Tech.aspx
- Popsicle.com. "The Popsicle Story." (March 15, 2013) http://www.popsicle.com/article/detail/107646/the-popsicle-story-popsicle-ice-pops
- Rosario, Tessa. "How to make money on Etsy." Brokelyn. July 13, 2009 (March 15, 2013) http://brokelyn.com/how-to-make-money-on-etsy/
- Vanderbilt, Tom. "Paper Trail." Time. Feb. 26, 2011. (March 15, 2013) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2046070,00.html#ixzz2NY21YXYR