ScoreCard Research Kristen Erickson - The Penny Hoarder

Tired of handing out money to your tweens and teenagers every time you turn around?

Encourage them to find creative ways to earn their own cash right in your neighborhood -- no gas money or extra driving required!  

This’ll not only create a fantastic work ethic, but will also hone their math and budgeting skills and make them feel empowered.

Your children will learn priceless lessons that will last them a lifetime. Plus, check out these going rates!

1.  Babysit or Become a Mother’s Helper

Trustworthy, responsible and willing sitters are wildly popular among parents.

While payment arrangements are different, experienced sitters can expect to receive $8-$20 per hour per kid, depending on the location. In our area, babysitters earn about $12 an hour.

If your tween isn’t quite old enough to watch children on their own, why not encourage them to become a “mother’s helper”?

Girls or boys between the ages of 9 and 12 make terrific in-house playmates to young children, while the parents enjoy uninterrupted time to get things done at home. These helpers can earn about $5 an hour.

2.  Help Out at Birthday Parties

Know any families planning to throw a birthday party?

Perhaps they’d consider hiring your tween to help run the games or crafts so the adults can serve food and focus on the birthday girl or boy!

We hired our neighbor’s girls this summer to help with a party. They were quite capable and a big hit for the 7-year-olds in attendance!

In addition to paying them each $10, we shared pizza, cake and ice cream. They loved being a part of my son’s big day!

3.  Walk Dogs or Pet Sit

Talk to pet owners in your area!

Are there after-school dog-walking opportunities? Maybe a neighbor’s planning a vacation and needs someone to feed the cat and change the litter box while they’re away?

My daughter’s 14-year-old friend earns $5 per day from her neighbors whose pets need some extra TLC.

4. Sell Crafts at Craft Fairs or Online

Have your kids become avid knitters, jewelry makers or whittlers? Help them open an Etsy store to earn some extra bucks to support their craft! The average price of an item sold on Etsy is $21!

Are crafts fairs popular in your area? Rent a booth, and give your child direct sales experience.

We know some youngsters who have done well selling their crafts. They even had to learn to file their own tax returns!

Fees to rent a booth vary widely, so consider how many sales your child will need to make to recoup the cost.

5.  Plan a Summer Camp

Have creative teens who like to work with younger kids host a “summer camp” for the neighborhood!  

Offer a morning time slot from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. -- the perfect time of day to beat the heat.

Activities can range from crafts and games to fort-building in the backyard. Ideal campers should be between ages 5 and 10.

Make sure there’s always a parent present in case of emergencies!  

Suggest a rate of $25 per week, per child. Creating flyers and posting on social media pages are great ways for kids to advertise their camp!

6. Grow and Sell Vegetables

Start a mini community-supported agriculture (CSA) network by opening a vegetable stand!

Create a vegetable garden in a sunny spot in your yard. Not only is a garden a healthy ongoing gift to your family, it’s also a great educational experience.

As produce grows, set up a stand in your yard to sell your goods. Check the prices at your local grocery store for an idea of what to charge.

Not going to be home? Invest in a metal lock box so people can slip money in when they drive by and can’t pass up your fresh harvest.

7.  Offer Lawn Services or Vacation Plant Watering

A responsible teen can easily charge $20 for mowing, and an extra $10 to do the weed-whacking.

We paid a neighborhood boy $20 per visit to mow our new yard for a month while we were moving.

Consider approaching families going on vacation. They’d probably be happy to come back to a nicely mown yard.

Ask if they need flowers, gardens and other plants watered while they’re away. Your kids could collect a $10 flat fee for keeping their thirsty plants healthy!

8.  Give Music Lessons

Is your teen a whiz at the piano or guitar?

Offer music lessons to families with budding musicians! Music schools and professional music teachers are pricy -- a 30-minute lesson can cost $25 or more.

Encourage teens to use their talents to teach younger kids the basics and beyond. We once hired a high school friend to teach piano for $15 per half-hour lesson.

Creating a schedule with several students could help your child create a steady income!

Your Turn: Will you let your kids try one of these moneymaking opportunities?

Kristen Erickson is single mama to four way-cool kiddos ages 13 to 4, works full time at a structural design firm, and writes and blogs on the side. She is almost debt-free and an expert on raising content and healthy suburban children on a shoestring budget! Join her on her journey at

We spent a year hemorrhaging $350 per month for my daughter to be in a private gymnastics school.

This monthly expense didn’t even include the cost of boosters, leotards, warm-ups, meets, meals and hotel rooms. Combined, these expenses totaled more than $6,000 a year!

My bank account was dwindling before my eyes. And we were just beginning our journey down the road of competitive gymnastics.

As a single mom with three other children in addition to my gymnast, I realized this was just plain crazy.

Saving on Gymnastics With One Simple Change

It turns out a YMCA two towns over has a top-notch gymnastics team at a fraction of the cost we were paying at the private gym. And that’s for the same amount of gym time.

Granted, we do have to pay for the monthly family membership. But this provides a place for our entire family to go for fun and exercise. And the meets are all within a two-hour drive, which means no hotel costs.

All in all, we save more than $4,000 a year by switching my daughter to the YMCA team.

Check out the side-by-side comparison:

gymnastics for kids

My daughter is having a marvelous time on her new team, being challenged and learning new skills.

Creating a Teachable Moment

As we maneuvered through this process, I was able to explain to her how switching teams could provide a similar experience while saving a significant amount of money.

Because I choose to involve my children in our plan to live debt-free, we discussed how the money we saved could be used to pay down our remaining debt. Our kids are smart and understand more about money than we may think.

My daughter was especially excited about her not-so-little contribution to this -- she knows our reward for becoming debt-free is a long-awaited, paid-for vacation. She was happy to oblige!

During the transition to the YMCA team, something else clicked: My daughter didn’t understand the mental comparisons I was making between the two gyms. She doesn’t notice the fancy zip code or bells and whistles of the private gym -- she is 10 years old and just loves to do gymnastics!

Our new family policy is to keep the kids’ activities focused around the Y and school. We can afford these experiences without causing ourselves financial hardship or adding debt.

Could You Make a Similar Switch?

Thinking of switching your child from a private team or gym? Check out the YMCAs and community centers in your area.

Be prepared with the following questions to give you the biggest bang for your buck. These are gymnastics-specific, but could easily be adapted to another sport:

  1. Is there a monthly or yearly member fee in addition to the team cost?
  2. How much gym time does your child receive for the cost?
  3. How far is the facility from your home? Are the commute and gas costs reasonable?
  4. How far will you be expected to travel to games or competitions? Are hotel stays involved?
  5. Is there a booster fee?
  6. Is there a parent volunteer requirement?
  7. What is the uniform cost?
  8. What is the competitive philosophy and does it align with your family values?
  9. What are the safety expectations of the equipment and the coaches?
  10. Is there high turnover among the coaching staff? What are the credentials of the staff, and are background checks performed?

Your Turn: How do you save money on your children’s activities? Do you involve your kids in financial decisions?

Kristen Erickson is single mama to four way-cool kiddos, works full time at a structural design firm, and writes and blogs on the side. She is almost debt-free and an expert on raising content and healthy suburban children as sustainably as possible on a shoestring budget! Join her on her journey at