When I was young, I loved having my own money. I had lemonade stands, cleaned cars, and even went through the cobwebbed treasures in my Grandma’s basement just to earn a buck.
Once I deemed that my piggy bank had “enough” in it, I’d beg my parents for a trip to Toys R Us, so I could blow my cash on the latest and greatest in children’s plastic, I mean toys.
As I got into my teenage years, lemonade stands turned into part-time jobs at the mall. And even though I worked two part-time jobs through high school, it turned into new clothes and shoes faster than I could count it.
It wasn’t until my 20s that I successfully balanced my ability to hustle with the ability to save money.
And as I think about teaching my future children about the value of a buck, I know introducing them to part-time jobs and side hustles during the teenage years will be valuable in ways much greater than the money they’ll earn.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- The benefits of starting to earn money at a young age
- The best side hustles for teens
- How to teach kids to save and spend money effectively
When kids take the initiative and start to look for ways to make money, we can begin to teach them big life lessons. Side hustles and part-time jobs are a fantastic way to teach teens about money management, but also:
- Hard work
- Time management
- How to form working relationships with others
- Insight into what kids may or may not want to do for work in the future
- How to counteract boredom
- Task prioritization
- Goal setting
- Stress management
I can say that I learned firsthand each of these valuable skills in the jobs I held as a kid.
Working the cash register at a busy daytime restaurant encouraged me to work efficiently, come together alongside my peers, ask for help when needed, help others, and manage my stress levels when several customers were barking at me at once.
These life lessons are irreplaceable, and they’ve helped me in so many ways as I worked through college and eventually into my career.
I can only hope that each kid who finds ways to make money also gets a chance to benefit in non-financial ways.
The key thing to remember when it comes to finding a job for teens is that it should be something that will still enable kids to be successful in their primary job, school.
If a side hustle becomes too much, it might be time to dial it back until summer vacation, when kids have more time to put towards these extracurricular endeavors.
Here are a few great ways for teens to make money, many of which I’ve done myself at one point!
- Working the cash register in a retail store
- Waiting or bussing tables at a restaurant
- Babysitting for younger family members or neighborhood kids (This was my go-to gig well into my 20s. And also the one that paid the best!)
- Train to become a lifeguard at the local pool or beach
- Become a camp counselor at a local or out-of-town summer camp
- Get crafty and sell homemade creations at an online shop like Etsy
If I could go back to my younger self, I’d stress the importance of saving money. Shoot, I’d probably also introduce younger me to the beauty that is a Roth IRA.
But I’d also say this. Enjoy it.
Kids are kids, and they need to learn a balance between saving money and how to spend it on experiences or items that bring value. Sometimes going out to the movies with friends is more important than putting an extra $20 in the bank.
And when kids can learn to strike this balance young, they can carry that into adulthood. Because Lord knows we need more adults who can find a happy place in the middle of the saver/spender spectrum.
So how do we teach kids that balance?
When a child first starts making money, parents can seize the opportunity to introduce financial concepts, like:
- Building an emergency fund. This especially goes for teens that have access to a car. Unexpected things happen. And while mom and dad might be around to cover a medical emergency, if a teen gets into a fender bender, they should have savings built up to fix the damage.
- The need to file taxes. One of the hardest life lessons is that the wage you earn isn’t actually all yours. While employers will take out state and federal taxes, it’s up to kids to make sure they file at the end of the year. And parents can help remind them. Since most teens will earn a nominal amount, they can anticipate enjoying a refund, which is bound to start kids off on the right foot when it comes to taxes.
- Paying bills. Again, this is probably more applicable for teenagers that use a family vehicle, but give them the responsibility of paying gas, insurance, or part of a car payment (even if that money goes to you!). Learning early that some of a paycheck needs to be diverted to bills is a vital life lesson.
- Investing. Anyone can open a Roth IRA as long as they have earned income. That means you can help your child open an account that will not only let them invest but do so in a tax-advantaged vehicle.
- Smart spending. Kids should be able to choose where they spend a portion of earned income. But offer kids reminders about the joys of saving up to buy larger items or opportunity cost and how that impacts what they choose, and don’t choose, to buy. When teens and kids can spend money that adds value to their lives, they’ll learn the true power behind it.
The Bottom Line
Part-time jobs and side hustles are much more than just ways for kids to make a few bucks. They’re also an excellent gateway into the adult world of financial management. When it comes to kids and making money, remember to focus on:
- Encouraging teens to find jobs that they can balance with school (or do during summer).
- Teaching kids about major financial concepts like saving, spending, and investing with each paycheck.
- Making sure kids know that money is also about enjoyment, and they need to figure out ways to make sure they’re using it for fun.
I can’t say enough positive words about how my part-time jobs helped me not only make money as a kid but blossom into a more well-rounded adult.
A little hard work never hurt anybody. So encourage kids to get out there and try things while they’re young and have the time.
- Should Kids Get An Allowance? How We Created A Money-System For Our Family
- How to Start a Side Hustle On a Budget
- My Son the Investor: Why You Should Teach Your Kids About Investing