ScoreCard Research Nicole Dieker - The Penny Hoarder

A lot of us trust savings accounts with our hard-earned money. After all, using a savings account has to be better than sticking that money under a mattress, right?

Many of us use savings accounts to set aside cash for an emergency fund or achieve a long-term financial goal. We set savings challenges for ourselves and find less expensive ways to get our pumpkin spice lattes, all in the name of putting more money in that savings account.

But what if those savings accounts were actually costing us money? As The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2015, some savings accounts “may actually be making your financial situation worse.”

Here’s what you need to know to choose the best savings account.

The Best Savings Accounts Offer High Interest, No Fees

How much interest are you currently receiving on your savings account?

The Christian Science Monitor suggests you look for an account that offers at least 1% interest. If your current savings account is offering less than 1%, it’s time to think about making a switch.

We've got a great list of accounts to check out:

It’s also time to take a good look at your bank fees. If your bank charges fees for low balances or for depositing/withdrawing money, you might not have the best savings account for your needs. Some banks even charge monthly maintenance fees.

Look for no-fee savings accounts to save as much of your money as possible -- and if you’ve got an account with fees, try calling your bank and asking if the fees can be waived. We’ve got a list of tips to help you get around many of the most common bank fees.

Saving vs. Investing

The other big mistake many people make is putting too much money in a savings account. Once you have a healthy emergency fund as well as sub-savings accounts for life goals like a vacation or down payment, it’s time to start thinking about how to start investing your money instead of putting it in bank savings accounts.

If you don’t yet have an IRA or a Roth IRA, for example, it might be a good time to start one. You can even consider a CD ladder if you find an option with great interest rates. Put those saved dollars to work, and let them earn even more money.

Think of your savings account as a way to get you to a short-term financial goal, like building up an emergency fund or saving for a new car. Any money you save for a long-term goal, like retirement, should go into something that is likely to bring a greater return -- not into a bank savings account.

Want to learn more? Read the full story at The Christian Science Monitor.

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.

Remember when you were a kid and did odd jobs for extra money? Turns out you can still do many of these jobs as an adult. In fact, several of the classic “childhood jobs,” such as babysitter and newspaper delivery, have almost completely transitioned from kid jobs to adult jobs.

Why the shift? Well, Lifehacker recently ran a chart showing the legal age at which children could be left home alone. Turns out many states have laws preventing children younger than 11, 12, or in the state of Illinois, 14, from being home alone by themselves. That wipes out a lot of babysitting jobs for preteens and helps explain why you don’t see as many kids out by themselves delivering papers or raking leaves.

Want to earn a little extra cash? Try one of these classic childhood jobs.

1. Babysitting

We’ve come a long way since The Baby-Sitters Club, when a group of 13- and 11-year-old girls formed their own business to babysit for local families. These days, most parents want their 11-year-olds to have babysitters, not to be the sitters themselves! They also often want their babysitters to be fully fledged adults.

Turn your babysitting skills into a lucrative career. When you were a kid, you probably got paid $8 or $10 for a full night of babysitting. As an adult babysitter, you can easily charge $15 an hour or more. Care.com gives you the going rates of babysitters in your area, so use that as a guide to set your own prices.

How do you get babysitting jobs? You could always talk to friends who have recently become parents; chances are they’ll know someone in their parenting group or baby swim class who needs a babysitter. You could also put up signs in coffee shops and family-friendly businesses advertising your skills. Or, you could join a babysitting or nannying agency, which is essentially the same thing as joining a baby-sitters club as an adult. For more advice, check out this post on working as a babysitter.

Consider developing an area of focus to help stand out from the other sitters: Maybe you work with special-needs kids, maybe you combine babysitting and tutoring, or maybe you offer tired parents your services as a night nanny.

2. Pet Sitting

If you like animals more than little kids, consider becoming a pet sitter instead of a babysitter. As with babysitting, more and more people are interested in trusting their furry children to responsible adults instead of the neighbor kid down the street.

As we’ve noted before, you could earn up to $100 a night taking care of people’s pets. Pet sitting is a popular job right now because many busy professionals need someone to watch their pets while they are on vacation or business travel. Other people simply need someone to take their dogs for a walk when they’re stuck in the office.

As with babysitting, you can stand out from the other clients by developing an area of focus or a special skill, such as dog adventure coordinator.

3. Raking Leaves and Shoveling Snow

Did you see my recent article about starting a leaf-raking business? Leaf-raking is another one of those jobs that used to be entrusted to kids but is quickly turning into an opportunity for adults. After all, how good of a leaf raker were you when you were 12? Chances are you’re better at it now, and much more willing to work hard and get the job done.

Leaf raking and snow shoveling are two seasonal childhood jobs that can also help adults bring in some extra income. Before you get started, find out the rules and regulations in your area: Some cities require you to put leaves in biodegradable bags, for example. Then get ready to put up signs and market your services. Keep in mind that it’s okay to ask people you know if you can rake or shovel for them, but it isn’t okay to go door-to-door. Yes, kids do it all the time, but a lot of cities have regulations against this practice.

Don’t underprice yourself. Ideally, you’ll want to make around $15 an hour or more for your work, especially because you’ll have to pay for your own supplies and taxes out of your income.

4. Delivering Newspapers

The iconic image of a young paperboy slinging newspapers from his bicycle is a bit outdated. These days paper routes often require cars, which turns newspaper delivery from a job for kids to one reserved for adults.

If you’re looking for a newspaper delivery job, your first step is to check out local and city papers’ websites. They are likely to have a section for job openings. You can also call the paper directly and ask how they hire their delivery workers. Job sites like Indeed and Monster also list open newspaper delivery jobs.

Be aware that this job often involves working very early hours, and you’ll usually be responsible for bundling and preparing the newspapers for the delivery before delivering them. The pay range for newspaper delivery jobs is often between $10 to $15 an hour.

5. Tutoring

A lot of young people earn a little extra money in high school or college by tutoring other students. Once you become an adult, there’s no reason why you have to stop your tutoring work. Plenty of parents are willing to pay good money for a great tutor. If you are patient, know how to keep kids motivated, and can explain educational concepts in a way that is easy for kids to understand, you might be exactly what parents -- and their kids -- are looking for.

The Penny Hoarder has resources on how to become an online tutor, as well as how to start your own tutoring business and find paying clients.

If you’re looking to go the online tutoring route, apply with a service like Tutor.com, Chegg Tutors or any of the numerous paid tutoring services online. (Some online tutoring sites don’t share pay ranges until after you’ve completed successful applications, but Chegg Tutors advertises on its front page that it pays tutors at least $20 per hour.)

If you’re looking to start your own tutoring business, think of it as a business first and a tutoring service second. Figure out how you stand out from other tutors. Do you have previous teaching experience? Did you get a perfect SAT score? Do you have experience working with kids who have learning disabilities? Develop a marketing plan that highlights your strengths.

Check out what other tutors in your area are charging, and price accordingly. Like many of the jobs on this list, you’re going to want to earn a minimum of $15 to $20 an hour, but in some cities and neighborhoods you can easily charge $30 to $50 an hour or more.

Then, make a website that features your expertise -- maybe a short video of you explaining how to diagram a sentence, for example -- and start advertising your services online, on social media and in person. Need more tips? Read The Penny Hoarder’s tutoring how-to guide.

6. Lifeguarding

Lifeguarding is still a popular summer job for teenagers, but many pools hire adult lifeguards as well. Money Crashers has a great guide to becoming an adult lifeguard, including this quote: “As someone who managed lifeguards for almost six years, I loved hiring adult guards because they were better at remaining focused, weren’t afraid to uphold the rules, and garnered more respect from a growing population of adult patrons.”

Sound like something you can do? Then it’s time to get certified, get up to date on your emergency first aid skills and get ready to blow that whistle!

Each city and pool will have its own certification requirements, but the American Red Cross lifeguard certification site is a good place to learn what types of certifications you might need, as well as where you can go to register for classes. Confirm any required certifications with your local pool before you spend money on coursework.

How much do lifeguards earn? Rates tend to float between $10 and $20 an hour.

7. Selling Lemonade

Ah, the lemonade stand. This job sounds so childish that many adults don’t even consider it. However, as we’ve written about before, it is possible to earn money selling lemonade as an adult.

What’s the secret? First, you have to make really great lemonade -- none of that powdery stuff you sold as a kid. Second, you have to know how to market yourself: as Sarah Greesonbach recommended, “Arrange to sell your refreshing beverage anywhere people might be hot and looking to try something new: in the parking lot at local baseball tournaments, at indoor and outdoor church functions, at summer festivals and local farmers markets.”

How much can you earn selling lemonade at farmers’ markets? Well, this USA Today story describes one entrepreneur who, in one day, sold 840 cups of maple lemonade at $4 per cup. That’s $3,360, minus expenses. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal!

8. Washing Cars

Car washing isn’t just for teenagers raising money for their sports teams. Companies like Eco Car Cafe and Washly hire car wash professionals to perform excellent work and get cars fully clean.

Check and see what car wash services are in your area, and whether you’d be interested in taking on this classic childhood job as an adult. You might have the most luck if you’re in a startup-heavy city like San Francisco. Washly, for example, operates out of the Toronto and San Francisco areas, and Eco Car Cafe serves the Seattle area. These startups are looking for people who can provide both an excellent clean and excellent customer service.

Be aware that you might have a lot of competition; Forbes noted that car wash startup Cherry (now defunct) only hired 1% of all applicants.

How much can you expect to get paid? According to Forbes, Cherry paid minimum wage to start. Not great, but better than nothing for a part-time job.

9. Weeding Gardens

Remember when your parents sent you to the backyard to pull weeds out of the garden? Chances are, they only paid you a few bucks for your hard labor -- if they paid you at all.

Well, now that you’re an adult, you have the opportunity to earn a bit more for your skills. Sites like TaskRabbit and Zaarly help connect garden-weeders to satisfied clients, so sign up with a few of those sites and see if you can find some gardens that need weeding!

Prefer to be your own boss? You can always advertise your own weeding and garden services as part of your very own freelance business. Bet that’s something you wish you could have done as a child!

Nicole Dieker is a freelance copywriter and essayist. She writes regularly for The Billfold on the intersection of freelance writing and personal finance, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, Yearbook Office, and Boing Boing.

Nearly everyone’s used coupons at some time or another, but New York mom Kate Fenner has turned couponing into a serious savings strategy.

She regularly returns from grocery shopping having spent under $2 for an entire cart full of groceries -- and sometimes she has so many coupons that she gets her groceries for free and gets cash back at checkout!

How does Fenner do it, and how can you make couponing a part of your everyday savings plan? We talked to Fenner to get her tips and advice.

[caption id="attachment_17391" align="aligncenter" width="719"]Groceries This Shoprite run cost Fenner just $2.59.[/caption]

How This Mother Started Couponing

Fenner grew up in a coupon-clipping family. “My mother definitely couponed when I was growing up, so I would see her clipping the coupons from the paper when I was a kid.”

However, even after watching her mother clip coupons, Fenner wasn’t a big couponer as an adult. Then things changed.

"A couple of years after I got married, we were settling into living in a new state and living on our own, and I needed to save some money. So I thought back to coupons, and seeing where I could go with that.

[caption id="attachment_17392" align="aligncenter" width="549"]Groceries On this haul from Shoprite, Fenner eceived a *profit* of $12.55.[/caption]

Using Local Blogs to Become a Coupon Expert

Fenner quickly realized coupons had changed since the days when her mother would sit down with the newspaper and a pair of scissors.

"Now, you can get coupons online, and there are all sorts of different apps, and cash back from the different apps and store coupons. There are all of these different things that you can combine to get the good deals.”

So Fenner started looking for online experts to guide her to the best deals. She found coupon blogs that focused on stores in her local area, and studied them to learn how to improve her couponing skills.

"It’s helpful to have local blogs,” Fenner told us. "I know one or two people who have blogs who live in the Capital District of New York, and they will put up what they call ‘match-ups’ for our stores. They’ll list what’s in the sales flyer, which products are on a good sale, and they’ll already do the legwork for me by finding out what coupons go with a sale and which apps might have savings as well.”

Fenner regularly visits A Super Savvy Saver Deal, a Capital region couponing blog that sometimes features Fenner’s hauls, listing the coupons she used and the savings she received. On Kate’s ShopRite TRIPLES Trip, for example, Fenner shared how she used three 50-cent coupons and added a 75-cent e-coupon to receive 75 cents in profit on Larabars.

If you want to become a coupon expert yourself, Fenner suggests looking for your own local couponing blogs. She advises new couponers to go to these blogs and decide what you want to buy based on their lists of high-value coupons and coupon/sale combinations.

She also advises new couponers to make couponing a part of their everyday routine. Fenner spends about 15 minutes every day looking at coupons and blogs to find the best deals and work those coupons into her shopping plan.

[caption id="attachment_17393" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Groceries Fenner spent $1.58 for this loot from Harris Teeter.[/caption]

Plan to Save

Fenner stresses the importance of planning your shopping trips: “Planning is key. Figure out what you’re going to buy beforehand.”

One element of Fenner’s planning strategy involves buying grocery staples in advance, so she can shop for the best deals. She knows that if she waits too long to buy cereal, for example, she has to pay the price the grocery store is offering on the day she needs cereal.

“If you put yourself in that situation, you’re going to be limited by what’s on sale today and what you have in front of you,” she explains.

But when Fenner plans ahead, she looks for the best coupons on cereal and other staples. She buys groceries when the price is right, not when her pantry is empty.

This type of planning becomes even more important during what Fenner calls a big couponing event. “Our store, Shoprite, just had a triple coupon promotion, so instead of doubling the value of the coupon, which many of my local stores do, they triple the value of most coupons.”

When Fenner knows that a big couponing event is coming, she figures out exactly what she needs to buy to save the most money. It takes a little extra time to plan these shopping trips, but that’s also how Fenner ends up with those amazing grocery hauls.

Use Coupons to Buy Healthy Foods

Fenner does not meal plan, but she does use what’s on sale to help guide her meal choices. This includes using coupons to subsidize the cost of foods that don’t often go on sale.

"There aren’t usually coupons on apples,” Fenner said, “but if you want to buy apples, you might be more likely to do it now that you’re saving money in other areas.”

Fenner knows a lot of people decide not to get into couponing because they don’t see coupons for foods they want to buy. What they don’t understand is they can use coupon savings to pay for the rest of their grocery cart. This goes for the little coupons as well as the big ones; no amount of savings is too small.

"When you start couponing and learn how it works, you’ll see that a 50-cent coupon is going to double to a dollar at your grocery store, potentially, and depending on the sale you can make a little profit on something, which can help you cover produce or meat."

We’ll leave you with some final advice from Kate Fenner: "Couponing can be as easy or as complicated as you make it. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it is a great way to save money. You can end up doing even more than you might think.”

So find your local couponing blogs, start planning your shopping trips and see if you can come home with a cart of free groceries.

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.

If you’ve got kids, you know that summertime is less about relaxation and more about figuring out how to keep the kids entertained! Child care expenses also often skyrocket during the summer, as working parents need to ensure their children are supervised during the day.

Summer camp is a great solution to the entertainment/supervision conundrum, but summer camps can be really expensive. If you’re thinking about what to do with the kids this summer, Get Rich Slowly has some great suggestions about how to save money on summer camp.

Scholarships, Gifts and Piggy Banks  

The first thing you want to do is see which summer camps offer scholarships. Many camps provide scholarships to families who need that extra financial boost, so check the camps in your area and start sending in applications.

Pay attention to camps that offer sibling discounts; sometimes a camp will let you save a little money while supervising all of your children simultaneously! It’s a win-win.

Consider asking your children’s grandparents for a financial gift. Most grandparents want to contribute to their grandchildren’s lives, and helping pay for summer camp is a lot better than buying the latest toy!

Don’t forget about asking your children to dip into their own piggy banks or allowance money, especially if they’re the ones begging you to let them go to an expensive camp. But don’t be surprised if your kids suddenly become interested in a more affordable option. As Get Rich Slowly writes: “it is amazing how kids’ wants change when it’s their money that will be paying for it.”

Summer Camp Alternatives

If summer camp is out of your financial reach this year, consider these cheap summer camps and camp alternatives:

  • Free or low-cost day camps run by churches or local athletic organizations

  • Day-long kid activities hosted at the public library

  • Summer school or enrichment programs at your child’s public school

Check your local paper and visit local organizations’ websites to learn what affordable kid opportunities are available.

Get Rich Slowly also suggests that you start budgeting now for next year’s camp expenses. Get a jar and start tossing in your loose change, or sign up for one of the many bank programs that helps you save small amounts of money every week. The more you save, the more you’ll be prepared for your family’s expenses—including summer camp!

Want to learn more? Read the full story at Get Rich Slowly.

Your Turn: Do you have any tips on how to save money on summer camp?

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.

Sometimes, the best way to save money is to go big and do something unbelievable, something totally out-there, and maybe even downright crazy.

What if you tried to go an entire month without buying anything? What if you wore the same dress every day for an entire year? What if you made sure all your meals cost less than $5?

These examples are all real. They’re some of the many ways regular people have tried to lower their expenses. Once you see what these people have done to save money, you might be inspired to start an unbelievable project of your own.

Geoff and Julie Tried a Buy-Nothing Year

Geoff Szuszkiewicz and Julie Phillips are roommates living in Calgary, Alberta. On Aug. 3, 2013, they launched an ambitious plan: to buy nothing, for a year. They launched their Buy Nothing Year project in three phases:

  1. August to November: No buying household goods or consumer goods
  2. November to July: No buying household goods or consumer goods, no buying services of any kind (meals out, haircuts, taxis, etc.)
  3. July to August: No buying anything — no spending of any kind.

Geoff and Julie told Forbes in August 2014 that, between the two of them, they saved over $55,000 during their Buy Nothing Year.

Want to replicate their experiment? Here’s the advice Julie gave Forbes readers: “People ask Geoff and I all the time how to get started, and we always say, start with a week of no spending, or a month.

Once you get started, it’ll be easy to see what you can live without. Even if you don’t want to do a full Buy Nothing Year, consciously trying to buy less, or doing a Buy Nothing Month, can save you a significant amount of money.

Trent Makes His Own Laundry Detergent

If you’re looking for unbelievable ways to save money, you can’t do much better than the tips at The Simple Dollar. Trent Hamm has been blogging about simple ways to save money since 2006 -- although some of his methods of saving money, such as making his own laundry detergent, are anything but simple!

Trent is a huge do-it-yourself advocate, and he’s quick to explain exactly how much you can save by concocting a bucket of laundry detergent slime instead of buying detergent at the store:

For comparison’s sake, a jumbo container of Tide at Amazon.com costs $28.99 for 96 loads, or a cost of $0.30 a load. Thus, with each load of this stuff, I’m saving more than a quarter. Even better -- I got to make a giant bucket of slime in the kitchen and my wife approved of it.

If you like saving money and science experiments, check out Trent’s laundry detergent recipe. Saving a quarter a load sounds like a great idea -- especially because when you’re dealing with laundry, quarters are worth their weight in gold.

Kristy Wore the Same Dress for a Year

Kristy Powell didn’t start her One Dress Protest as a way to save money; instead, she thought of it as a fast from spending money, as well as a fast from the fashion industry. So from Jan. 3, 2011 to Jan. 3, 2012 (or from her 26th to 27th birthday), Kristy decided to wear just one dress, day in and day out.

As she wrote toward the end of her project:

When I cut out all the clothing and fashion consumption mess from my life at the beginning of this year, I found myself with lots of empty space and a void to fill. I actually remember thinking, What are you going to do on the weekend if you can’t shop? I’m actually embarrassed to share that with you at this point. But it is totally relevant, and the truth. The void, superficial or not, felt enormous.

You can go on a similar spending fast. If you don’t want to go so far as to wear the same dress for a year, try paring down your wardrobe to 10 favorite outfits.

Or find something else in your life that could inspire a spending fast: Maybe you could go to the library instead of buying books and DVDs, or take public transportation instead of driving.

Erin Won’t Make a Dinner That Costs More Than $5

Erin Chase is the $5 Dinner Mom. She only makes meals that cost less than $5 -- and that’s not just for her. It’s for the entire family.

Check out Erin’s tips and recipes at $5 Dinners. Then, think about how much money you’re currently spending on food. Does using Erin’s recipes to never spend more than $15 a day for three meals sound appealing?

Try a few $5 Dinner recipes, such as Pizza Grilled Cheese or Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken. Then see if you’re ready to incorporate $5 dollar dining into your own life.

Will You Try a Similar Challenge?

The great thing about each of these projects is that you can see comparable results even without going to unbelievable extremes.

Don’t want to make a $5 dinner every night? Try making $5 dinners three times a week. Don’t want to wear the same dress every day? Decide you won’t buy new clothes for six months, and only wear what’s in your closet.

You won’t believe how you can save money.

Your Turn: Have you tried a similar spending or saving challenge? How did it go?
Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.

It’s almost time for summer, which means it’s time to think about summer jobs. If you’re a teen looking for work -- or if you’ve got a teen in your house who should be looking for work -- here’s a list of 100 summer jobs for teens.

Teen jobs traditionally pay around minimum wage or a little bit more, so expect to earn anywhere between $2,000-$5,000 (pretax) for a summer’s worth of work, depending on the type of job you get and whether you work full- or part-time. You can also, of course, create your own job -- and we’ve got plenty of resources to help you there.

We’ve divided the jobs into categories to help you quickly find the type of job that might be most interesting to you. What will you do for work this summer?

Sitting: Children, Houses, Pets and Plants

Babysitting is a classic teen job, but there are a lot more opportunities for teens to earn money by helping friends and neighbors care for kids, pets and even houses!

The Jobs

  1. Mother’s Helper: A good option for younger teens, this is a great way to get started as a sitter. Watch or play with children while a parent is in the home getting other work done.
  1. Babysitter: Watch babies or children while their parents are away. You need CPR training and a safe sitter course, both of which are available through the Red Cross. Becoming a family’s regular sitter can often put a lot of money in your bank account, since many parents will need full-time child care while their kids are out of school all summer!
  1. Pet Sitter: Watch and feed pets while the owners are away. This gig can last anywhere from a long weekend to a few weeks or more.
  1. Dog Walker: Walk dogs while families are at work or on vacation. You must love dogs -- and be willing to scoop up their poop!
  1. Plant Sitter: It’s not a very high-paying gig, but every dollar counts! Water plants while owners are away. Instead of saying “I charge $10 an hour” for this one, expect that a family will offer you something like $25 to $50 for taking care of their plants over a period of time.
  1. House Sitter: For the older teens, this is a great job for summers in between college. You get paid to live in someone else’s house while they are away. Might include pet or plant sitting as part of the job description; will probably include light cleaning and maintenance so the owners don’t come home to dust and mildew.

What You Can Earn

There’s generally a “market rate” in your area for sitting jobs, and it could range from $10 an hour to $25 an hour depending on your location and your experience. Talk to other sitters or parents in your area to find out what’s reasonable. Don’t be afraid to negotiate for the rate you think you deserve!

How to Get the Jobs

A lot of these jobs are filled through word-of-mouth; a friend of your parents might be going on a trip and needs someone to feed the cat. But be proactive! Put up flyers, put out the call on Facebook and make sure the adults you know are aware that you are ready and able to work.

Making: Turn Your Talents Into Cash

If you can make something that’s beautiful or useful, you’ve got yourself a job opportunity.

The Jobs

  1. T-Shirt Designer: Have a knack for art and design? Want to turn your favorite TV characters’ names into a Helvetica T-shirt? Start designing and selling T-shirts on sites like District Lines, Spreadshirt, Teespring or Etsy.
  1. Seamstress or Tailor: If you can make and alter clothes, you’ve got a skill you can monetize. Alter pants for friends and family, or sell original clothing items on Etsy or at flea markets and craft shows.
  1. Doll Designer: There’s a big market for customized dolls out there -- maybe you’ve seen the story of the woman who repainted Bratz dolls’ faces to look natural and makeup-free -- so if you have a talent or interest here, start making and start selling!
  1. Woodworker: Make chairs, crafts, walking sticks or other wood items and sell them on Etsy or in person. Put up signs in your local area announcing your talent and seek out commissions.
  1. Webcomic Artist: If you want to get started as a webcomic artist, there’s no time like the present. It might take a few years to build up an audience willing to pay for books, T-shirts and other webcomic-related merchandise, but why not spend a summer developing your webcomic and seeing if this could be a career for you? Emma T. Capps, for example, started her webcomic The Chapel Chronicles when she was 14, and by 17, she taught comics workshops and had her work featured in Dark Horse Presents.
  1. Photographer: Whether you take (and sell) stock photography, start a small business taking photos of weddings or babies, or even sell your iPhone photos, there are plenty of opportunities to make money with your camera.

What You Can Earn

You have the opportunity to set your own price for these gigs, but be aware more people are likely to buy an $18 T-shirt than they are a $45 T-shirt. Check out what other people are charging for similar items; custom dolls, for example, can easily sell for over $100 each on Etsy. Read our guide to starting a freelance business for more info on pricing and making a profit.

How to Get the Jobs

You’re creating your own job, so the big hurdle here is promotion. Tell your friends and family, post your work to social media sites and continue to promote your efforts every day.

Writing: A Penny -- Or More -- For Your Thoughts

If you are at all familiar with books like “Eragon” or “The Duff,” you know that teen writers are in demand -- but you don’t have to be a novelist to get paid for your words.

The Jobs

  1. Article Writer: Plenty of markets offer opportunities for teens to pitch and sell articles, personal essays and other work to online magazines and websites. Check out teen blogs like Rookie, or visit the websites you read every day and look at their submission guidelines. You can even pitch The Penny Hoarder!
  1. Local Newspaper Reporter: If you live in a town or neighborhood with a small local newspaper, there might be an opportunity for you to work as a junior reporter. This could be an internship or it could be a paying gig -- and you won’t find out until you ask.
  1. Blogger: Popular blogs make money through ads, selling merchandise and turning blog content into books. Start your own blog and build your audience, or consider paid guest post opportunities at other blogs, starting with our list of 7 blogs that pay $100+ per post. When you pitch editors, don’t emphasize your age -- instead, focus on your idea and why it’s a great fit for their site.
  1. Author: Got a novel that’s almost ready for publication? Use resources like the New Leaf Literary Tumblr to learn how to query and submit your work to an agent, or self-publish your book on Kindle (with your parents’ help) and earn money on each sale.
  1. Transcriptionist: If you are skilled at quickly transcribing audio or decoding somebody’s handwriting, look for transcription jobs online. Ask your parents to see if they know anyone who needs transcription done -- I spent one teenage summer transcribing handwritten music for a family friend, and that’s the kind of job you’ll never see on an online job board!
  1. Proofreader: Do you know when -- and how -- to use commas? Can you quickly identify misspelled words? Look for proofreading companies that hire teens, or follow my transcription example and find an adult who needs a big document proofread with a careful eye.

What You Can Earn

Payment varies widely; expect about $25 to $100 for an article or a guest blog post. Transcriptionist and proofreader gigs might earn around minimum wage or a few dollars more, depending on your experience and where you work. One of our writers earned $2,000 self-publishing a book on Amazon.

How to Get the Jobs

Follow submission guidelines for articles and blog posts; follow Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing guidelines; learn how to query an agent; apply for proofreading and transcription work directly.

Cleaning: Gather Your Singing Birds and Get Ready to Scrub

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it -- and get paid for it.

The Jobs

  1. House Cleaner: Got a knack for getting dirt off surfaces? Look for house cleaning jobs in your area, or set out as a house-cleaning entrepreneur.
  1. Hotel Housekeeper: Ever wonder who cleans up your room when you stay in a hotel? If you apply for this job, it could be you!
  1. Pool Cleaner: Get the scum out of pools so people can enjoy their swims. Look for companies hiring pool cleaners, since you’ll need special training to handle the chemicals involved.
  1. Car Washer: Offer to wash cars for your friends’ parents or other adults you know, or see if the local car wash is accepting applications.
  1. Janitorial Work: Cleaning toilets may not sound like fun, but it’s a paying job and you might end up with some really great stories!
  1. Dishwasher: Do you like washing dishes? I spent part of one summer washing a lot of dishes in a college cafeteria. (Ask me if there were water fights.)

What You Can Earn

Minimum wage or a few dollars more.

How to Get the Jobs

Find out whether the business prefers in-person applications or online applications, and apply accordingly. As with many teen jobs, if you know someone who already works there, your application might get a little boost.

Teaching: Train Scholars, Earn Dollars

Tutoring and teaching younger children is another classic teen job. Whether you are a pianist or a pre-calc expert, there is a tutoring opportunity for you.

The Jobs

  1. Music Teacher: I taught piano lessons as a teenager, and it was a great way to make money. If you play the piano or another instrument, you’ll find opportunities to teach kids about Middle C, Every Good Boy Does Fine and other fundamentals of music.
  1. Dance Teacher: If you are a talented dancer, see if you can provide lessons to neighborhood kids, support instructors at a community center or work as a teacher’s assistant at your local dance studio.
  1. Art Teacher: Put on your paint shirt and teach kids how to put a brush to canvas. Or get out the clay and have fun sculpting!
  1. Tutor: You can find tutoring opportunities in nearly every subject, from pre-algebra to French.
  1. Conversational English Tutor: Help peers, younger children or senior citizens learn English and practice conversational speaking.
  1. SAT/PSAT Tutor: Who better to hire as a SAT/PSAT tutor than someone who just took the tests?
  1. Swimming Instructor: Help kids improve their butterfly strokes, or simply help them overcome their fears of putting their heads in the water! As with babysitting, you’ll need to be fully CPR trained. Visit your local swimming pool and ask about job opportunities.
  1. Riding Instructor: Start young children on a lifelong love of horses by working as a riding instructor. If this job appeals to you, you’re probably already familiar with the local stables, so ask how you can apply for an instructor job.

What You Can Earn

As with babysitting, there is probably a tutoring market rate in your area. You could earn anywhere from $10 to $50 an hour, depending on your skills, expertise and ability to promote yourself and negotiate.

How to Get the Jobs

Some of these jobs, like swimming and riding instructor, require applications and interviews. Others, like piano teacher or art teacher, you can create yourself. If you are putting out your shingle as the best oboe or algebra teacher in town, work on promoting yourself to people you know, putting up flyers in places where parents gather and making sure everyone on social media knows that you are ready to teach!

Performing: Turn Those Stars in Your Eyes Into Dollar Signs

If you like being on stage, we’ve got some job ideas that you are going to love.

The Jobs

  1. YouTuber: We’ve all seen YouTubers who came out of nowhere and became stars. In 2015, we wrote about an 8-year-old girl who makes $127,000 a month with YouTube cooking videos. There’s no guarantee you’ll go viral, but if you are interested in making YouTube videos, why not give it a try?
  1. Twitch: If you love gaming and video game culture, then you might as well get paid for it, right? According to Smart Asset, you could make some big bucks just by live streaming your video gaming. By running a few ads during your games you could end up cashing in at the end.
  1. Band Member: Yes, it is possible to spend your summer starting a band, writing songs, making a few GarageBand demo tracks and playing gigs. It takes a lot of work to hustle for gigs and sell merch afterwards, so be prepared.
  1. Event Pianist: Can you play soft, unobtrusive jazz music for an hour or two at a time? Offer your services as an event pianist for art openings, wine tastings and parties, and get ready to make some beautiful background music. This was another one of my many teenage jobs, so I know the gigs are out there!
  1. Choral Accompanist: Lots of choirs need piano accompanists, from community choirs to church choirs. Turn your accompanying skills into cash!
  1. Church Organist: A lot of churches use organists every Sunday. If you play the organ, look for church jobs or offer to fill in while the regular organist is on summer vacation.
  1. Actor: It is possible to find paid acting gigs at professional theaters, so look for what’s available and go audition!
  1. Dancer: Those professional theaters also sometimes need young dancers, so see if there are any jobs out there for you.
  1. Pit Orchestra Performer: Community theaters sometimes hire pit orchestras for their summer musicals and are happy to pay talented teens to play in the pit.
  1. Magician: Can you pull a rabbit out of a hat? Are you skilled with illusions? Perform the magic trick of turning talent into cash by performing at kids’ birthday parties and other events.
  1. Party Princess (or Prince): Want to play Cinderella, Belle, Gaston or Elsa at a child’s birthday party? Read our party princess guide for more information, then look for a character company in your area and ask for an audition.
  1. Mascot: Become a team mascot, wear a hot dog suit and stand outside a local restaurant or get a job working as a familiar character such as Uncle Sam.
  1. Podcaster: We know that some of you are “Welcome to Night Vale” fans. Why not start a podcast of your own? We’ve got tips on how to monetize your podcast and turn it into a real job, just like the Night Vale team did.

What You Can Earn

This is going to vary widely between gigs, but here’s what we know:

  • A party princess could bring in around $40 to $50 per hour plus tips

  • An event pianist might bring in $100 for the evening plus tips, depending where you live. Always put a tip jar on the piano!

  • A talented magician can bring in $150 to $500 an hour, so practice your coin tricks!

  • YouTuber and podcaster are all dependent on how popular your media becomes, so get ready to put out a lot of new content on a regular schedule and promote, promote, promote.

How to Get the Jobs

Some of these jobs, like party princess, actor or pit performer, might require auditions and applications; others, like podcaster, band member or magician, require you to develop and promote your own work.

The Great Outdoors: With the Sun on Your Face and Dollars in Your Pocket

If you like spending your summer days outside, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the beautiful weather and earn money at the same time. Try one of these outdoor jobs:

The Jobs

  1. Lawn Maintenance: Mow grass, pull weeds and do whatever it takes to keep a lawn looking tidy. This can be an entrepreneurial opportunity for you, too; talk to family friends, put up flyers and advertise yourself as the best teen lawn service in town.
  1. Landscaping: This might include lawn maintenance, and might also include planting bushes and planning gardens. You’ll probably want to work with a professional landscaping company, unless you are the rare teen with landscaping knowledge and experience.
  1. Lifeguard: Wear a whistle and help kids practice water safety in and around swimming pools. CPR and lifeguard training are a must for this one, as you never know when a pool accident could happen.
  1. Corn Detasseler: This is just what it sounds like: Go into cornfields and pull tassels off corn. “Detasseling is tough,” says Pioneer. “It’s a hot, muddy and sweaty job, but it’s a great way to work for a few weeks in the summer and reap the financial reward. “
  1. Apple Picker: Go into orchards and pick apples off trees. You might also get to make or serve doughnuts and cider to orchard visitors.
  1. Agriculture Work: Corn detasseling and apple picking aren’t the only agriculture jobs that are available to teens. Depending on what crops grow in your area, you might find all kinds of agriculture and harvesting opportunities. One person we talked to had a summer job as a kelp harvester!
  1. Construction Work: Look for construction jobs in your area that hire teens. Some types of construction jobs are only available to people over 18, but others are appropriate for younger teens. Check out OSHA’s Young Workers in Construction site to learn more about job opportunities.
  1. Camp Counselor: Sing camp songs, teach crafts and become a kid’s hero for the summer. These kinds of jobs fill up far in advance, so if you missed the application period for this summer, put it on your to-do list for next year.
  1. Sign Spinner: You’ve seen them on street corners or on YouTube, spinning and flipping their signs. If you’d like a job where you can stand on a corner and rock out with a sign all day, look for sign-spinning jobs in your area and get ready to demonstrate your skills. Less interested in the dancing aspect? Look for sign-holder jobs, which are like sign-spinner jobs but don’t involve spinning.
  1. Paper Route: Here’s another classic teen job. Check your local paper’s website to see if they have any open delivery positions. Be aware that some delivery routes require you to have a car, and many delivery routes require very early morning wake-up times.
  1. National Park Worker: If you live near a national park, you might already be aware of the summer jobs available there. If not, visit the park’s website and look for job opportunities, or check out the National Park Service’s Jobs For Students.
  1. Zoo/Aquarium Assistant: If you’ve got a zoo nearby, you’ve got job opportunities. Zoos hire teens for seasonal jobs ranging from “landscape attendant” to “birthday party host.” You probably won’t get to feed the red pandas, but you’ll still get to see animals and work in a fun environment.
  1. Tour Guide: “And to your left, we have the original foundation of City Hall…” See if there are any tour guide opportunities in your area, and get ready to become very good at walking backwards.
  1. Amusement Park Worker: Yet another classic teen summer job. Visit your local amusement park’s website and apply to serve popcorn or help people throw softballs at milk bottles.
  1. Fair Worker: Fairs offer so many opportunities to earn money! Dress up and speak in Ye Olde English for a Renaissance Faire, or use your Four-H skills to raise and sell an animal at a county or state fair. Work the funnel cake machine, assist at the carousel or take tickets at the gate -- the job opportunities are practically endless, though most fairs won’t last a full summer.
  1. Sports Scorer/Timer/Referee: Summer sports leagues need people to keep track of scores, start and stop the clock and serve as referees.

What You Can Earn

These jobs will generally be in the “slightly above minimum wage” range, and can go even higher depending on the hiring organization. Expect to earn up to $10 an hour as a corn detasseler, amusement park worker, lifeguard or camp counselor, according to Glassdoor. One of our Penny Hoarder writers reported that apple pickers can earn up to $28 an hour.

How to Get the Jobs

Go online and look for application instructions. As we noted earlier, having a friend who works there can often help your application.

Working For The Man: Would You Like Fries With That?

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the following jobs are teen summer staples.

The Jobs

  1. Retail: Stock shelves, help customers find merchandise and ring them up at checkout. These jobs often come with a nice employee discount, so look for retail gigs at your favorite stores.
  1. Food Service: Prepare food, serve food, ring up customers’ orders, bus dishes and clean up afterwards. Server jobs at nicer restaurants tend to come with the best tips; here’s how to give yourself the best chance of earning more tips no matter where you work.

  2. Receptionist: Answer phones, direct people’s calls and greet people when they enter the building. The receptionist is often the first person guests see or speak with when they contact a company, so you have to be ready to present yourself professionally at all times.
  1. Administrative Work: Type documents, file paperwork, enter numbers into a 10-key system and perform other clerical jobs for a busy office or small business. One woman we spoke with used to do this type of admin work at a spa, so think outside the box here!
  1. Movie Theater Worker: Take tickets, serve popcorn, clean popcorn off the floor and become very familiar with every summer blockbuster.
  1. Gas Station Worker: Manage the register at a gas station. If you live in New Jersey or Oregon, the two states that don’t let drivers pump their own gas, you might even get to fill ‘er up.

What You Can Earn

Minimum wage or a few dollars more. If you get a server gig at the best restaurant in town, though, you can expect great tips.

How to Get the Jobs

Visit websites and look for application instructions, or walk into the stores/restaurants/movie theaters/gas stations and ask about open positions. If someone hands you a paper application, be ready to fill it out right away; have your Social Security Number memorized and carry copies of your resume -- and a pen -- with you.

Calling All Entrepreneurs: Be Your Own Boss

If the idea of “working for the man” made your skin crawl, it’s time to think about working for yourself. As an entrepreneur, you have almost unlimited options -- want to start a laundry service for new parents? a dating service for high school students? -- but here are a few prompts to get you started:

The Jobs

  1. Personal Assistant: Help busy adults handle their personal filing, scheduling, shopping and more. Your job is to make their lives run smoothly and easily, so be prepared to demonstrate how you can make that happen.
  1. Personal Organizer: This is kind of like a housecleaner job, except without the scrubbing. Help people decide what to keep, what to throw away and how to organize it all. Study the KonMari method for inspiration, or create your own organizing system.
  1. Computer Repair and Assistance: If you know how to get data off a crashed hard drive, or if you know how to help a family friend switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox, you have a job opportunity.
  1. Mystery Shopper: This isn’t strictly an entrepreneurial job, since you’ll be working for a mystery shopping company, but we’re putting it here because this job lets you set your own hours and work as your own boss. As a mystery shopper, you go into stores and ensure that, for example, employees are completing customer checkout steps correctly. The Penny Hoarder’s founder, Kyle Taylor, has a lot of mystery shopping experience, so read his guide to mystery shopping to learn more.
  1. Crowdfunder: Want to get a big project off the ground, like an album, a novel or a robot dog? See if you can fund it on Kickstarter. If you are under 18, you will need your parents to set up your Kickstarter accounts and accept the payments on your behalf. Read our Kickstarter guide first, to make sure you don’t accidentally lose money on your project! If you’d like to do a series of smaller projects, such as writing and publishing one short story per week, check out Patreon. They welcome teen creators!
  1. Startup Founder: Don’t like any of the jobs you see on this list? Make your own! If you have an idea and a way to monetize it, launch your own summer startup and see how much money you can earn. Get a few friends involved and share the work -- and the profits! Think how good “startup founder” will look on a college application.

What You Can Earn

It’s up to you -- you’re the entrepreneur! Read our guide to starting a freelance business to help you understand what to charge and how to factor for items like taxes and cost of materials.

How to Get the Jobs

Entrepreneurs create their own jobs, and then market themselves to potential clients. Be ready to promote your home organization business, your Kickstarter or your startup.

Make Money Online: Not a Scam!

Make a few bucks here and there by taking surveys, or become an app or web developer and set your own price.

The Jobs

  1. Survey Taking: Got a little free time? Take a few surveys and make some extra cash. Or power down and see how many surveys you can complete in four hours. Not all survey sites accept people under 18, but some do. Start with our list of paid survey sites, or check out this list of survey sites for people under 18.
  1. Mobile Money-making Apps: Take a look at our list of money-making apps that let you earn money by playing games or doing tasks on your phone. This won’t make you a lot of extra money, but you can make a few extra bucks!
  1. App Developer: Making money by playing games on someone else’s app is fun, but you can make even more money by creating and developing your own apps and selling them on the iTunes App Store or Google Play. Maybe you’ll create the next Flappy Bird or Crossy Road!
  1. Website Developer: If you know how to build a website from the ground up -- or even how to use WordPress to create a unique and attractive website -- you have a marketable skill.
  1. Theme Designer: Lots of people pay money for premium Tumblr themes. If you can design a beautiful theme, you might be able to make money by submitting it to Tumblr so other users can purchase it. We confirmed with Tumblr that they’ll accept themes from teens, although if you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent/guardian signature on the contract. The more themes you create, the more opportunities you have to make sales.

What You Can Earn

Surveys and money-making apps are going to give you just enough extra cash to go to the movies once a month, unless you are willing to put in a lot of time and effort. Selling apps on iTunes and Google Play might only make you a little bit of money depending on how popular your app becomes, but a completed app is great to add to your resume/portfolio and might help you get a developer job in the future.

You should be charging at least $25 per hour for website development (professionals charge $40-75 an hour), and making money on a Tumblr theme depends on how many people buy your theme.

How to Get the Jobs

Sign up for survey sites or mobile money-making app sites. If you are a developer, you can make your own job.

Reseller: Becoming a Retail Arbitrage Expert

“Retail arbitrage” is when someone buys an item and then resells it at a profit. Believe it or not, this is a perfectly legit way to make money -- ask Kyle Taylor, who resold books, toys and more to help pay his way through college!

The Jobs

  1. Book Reseller: If you’ve already started college and have textbooks to sell, you can make good money reselling them to sites like BookScouter or Amazon Textbook Buyback. If you don’t have textbooks to sell, start scouring used bookstores or yard sales for volumes in good condition, and then sell them online at a profit. Read our book reselling guide for tips on which books to resell, and which to leave on the shelf.
  1. Toy Reseller: Just like book reselling, toy reselling involves selling toys online at a profit. If you already have a bunch of old toys to sell, great! If not, it’s time to hit the yard sales. First, read our toy reselling tips so you know how to make a profit.
  1. Clothing Reseller: Yes, you can resell clothes just like books and toys! Read our guide to consignment selling and then start cashing in on fashion.
  1. Gift Card Reseller: Here’s one you might not have thought of: buying discounted gift cards online and reselling them at face value. We’ve got both a guide for buying discounted gift cards and a guide for reselling gift cards for you.
  1. Flea Market Worker: Want to sell in person? Get a table at a flea market and start selling used items, handmade crafts and other treasures. Read our flea market guide to get the most out of your wares. Depending on the flea market rules, you might need to work with an adult -- or someone over 18 -- but that doesn’t mean you can’t share in the profits!
  1. Yard Sale Organizer: Plenty of families want to have summer yard sales, but balk at the hassle of setting everything up, pricing the items and managing the table for an entire weekend. Why not offer your services as a yard sale organizer? You guessed it: we’ve got a yard sale guide to get you started.

What You Can Earn

Kyle Taylor earned about $750 a month selling used books, and your earnings will likely be dependent on how much you sell and whether you find great items for resale.

How to Get the Jobs

Find something to resell and start selling!

The Family Business: Keeping Money in the Family

Parents are often a teen’s first employers, starting with the exchange of allowance for chores. Here are a few more “grown-up” job opportunities.

The Jobs

  1. Help the Family Business: If you have a family business and your parents or relatives haven’t already approached you about working in the business, take the initiative and ask if they can use your help.
  1. Cook Family Meals for Extra Allowance: Know how to cook? Offer your parents a trade: you’ll handle all the family meals for the summer -- that means shopping, cooking and cleanup -- in exchange for what you agree is a fair wage. Your parents may want menu approval to ensure you don’t plan to serve frozen pizza every night!
  1. Ask Parents What They Need Done: Chances are, every parent has a long to-do list of jobs: cleaning out the garage, scrubbing behind the refrigerator and other time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks. Tell your folks you are ready to take on this work for a little extra cash.

What You Can Earn

If you are working for the family business, you deserve at least minimum wage. For odd jobs, work out what feels fair. Cleaning out the garage should be worth at least $100, right?

How to Get the Jobs

Talk to your folks.

Volunteer Work: Do Good and Good Will Follow

Not all summer jobs have to be paying gigs. Get a volunteer job and give back to your community -- and did we mention it’ll look great on your college applications?

The Jobs

  1. Political Campaigning: During election seasons, there are plenty of opportunities for you to support political candidates. Door knocking, phone banking and other jobs abound!
  1. Docent: Do you like history, science or art? Become a docent at a local museum. When I was a docent, we got to dress up like local historical figures and share our stories with museum guests.
  1. Intern: Get to know the working world and test out a potential career by interning at a local business. If you can find a paying internship, great -- otherwise, expect to work in exchange for school credit or the all-important “learning experience.”
  1. Library Volunteer: Libraries often need people to read to children’s groups or provide other volunteer services. Talk to your local library about opportunities.

  2. Nursing Home Reader: When I was a teenager, I read the newspaper -- and a few novels -- aloud to nursing home residents. There might be an opportunity for you at your own local nursing home.
  1. Service Project: If you’re interested in building houses, cleaning up highways, or giving back to your community in a structured group environment, consider signing up for a service project. If you don’t see the type of project you’d like to complete, organize your own!

What You Can Earn

The feeling of knowing you helped your community, plus a few great lines on your college application or resume.

How to Get the Jobs

Some volunteer jobs can be as competitive as paying jobs and require applications and interviews. Other volunteer jobs, like political campaigning, take everyone who wants to help.

For 18-year-olds: Achievement Unlocked! New Job Opportunities!

Once you turn 18, a whole world of job opportunities opens up to you. Here are some jobs you might want to consider for this summer.

The Jobs

  1. Mechanical Turk: 18-year-olds can join Amazon Mechanical Turk, a site that lets you perform simple tasks -- like identifying whether a comment is positive or negative -- for money. Read our guide to maximizing your Mechanical Turk income to learn more.
  1. Uber Driver: Once you turn 18, you are eligible to work for Uber. With Uber, you use your own car to provide rides to people who need them. The average Uber driver makes $19 an hour, the company says, but this will largely depend on where you live. You do, however, have to pay for your own gas.
  1. Call Center Worker: Call center jobs are often viewed as boring, but they are solid ways to make money. Not all call center jobs are outbound telemarketing jobs; you can also work in a call center that receives calls from customers.
  1. WWOOFer: Want to spend your summer traveling? Sign up for WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Receive food and accommodation in exchange for farm labor, and learn more about different parts of the country -- or the world.
  1. Website Tester: Companies like User Testing hire people to test websites remotely and write short reports about their functionality. Check out one writer’s report on working as a website tester.
  1. Content Writer: Companies like Crowdsource hire people to write short how-to articles and other copy for the Internet. If you are a fast researcher and writer, you can earn up to $750 a week writing for content sites.
  1. Fanfic Writer: You don’t have to be over 18 to write fanfic, but you do have to be over 18 to write for Kindle Worlds, where writers get paid for writing fanfic set in universes such as “The 100,” “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars.”

What You Can Earn

$19 an hour as an Uber driver, minimum wage or above at a call center, varying wages for Mechanical Turk and online website testing or content jobs.

How to Get the Jobs

Apply online, pick a country to WWOOF in, write an amazing story about Spencer Hastings going to a murder mystery dinner where she finds herself solving an actual murder.

Your Turn: What jobs did you have as a teenager? If you are a teen, which jobs sound the most interesting?

Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

Whether you’re opening up shop as a freelancer or telecommuting as an employee, when you start working from home, you often think of all the money you’ll save.

No more commutes! No more business casual! No more $12 sandwiches!

Well, I’ve worked from home for four years now, and I’ll tell you it’s delightful to not have to commute and wear special clothes.

However, I also know working from home comes with a lot of hidden costs.

You’re not just saving $12 on a fast-casual sandwich; you’re also buying extra groceries so you can eat lunch at home.

You’re saving on the daily commute, but you’re also paying to travel downtown and meet with clients.

Here are nine of the biggest hidden work-from-home costs, as well as tips on how to avoid them.

1. Computers, Laptops and Smartphones

Nearly all of us use our personal computers, laptops and smartphones for occasional business, like checking email in the evenings.

Once you start working from home, those devices become essential tools for communicating with bosses, coworkers and clients -- and those tools need to work just as hard as you do.

If your laptop or smartphone is old and slow, you’re probably going to want to replace it.

You don’t want to be the team member who can’t join the Google Hangout because your laptop keeps crashing. (True story!)

Keeping up with the latest technology can be a huge hidden work-from-home cost, but those purchases can also be significant tax deductions for freelancers and independent contractors. Talk to your tax adviser to learn more.

You can actually avoid some upgrade costs by taking excellent care of the tech you already have.

Practice good computer hygiene, and keep your tools free of both crumbs and viruses. Lifehack has eight tips to help you keep your tech going for as long as possible.

2. High-Speed Internet

Sometimes you can’t join the Google Hangout because your laptop is too old -- and sometimes you can’t join because your internet’s too slow.

A lot of us already have high-speed internet at home, but if you don’t, you’ll quickly learn it’s practically a necessity for today’s fast-paced work-at-home environment.

Upgrading your internet speed comes at a cost, but you might be able to deduct a percentage of it on your taxes.

Keep records of how often you use your internet connection for business and personal use, and share those records with your tax adviser.

3. Office Supplies

Even though we live in an online world, you’re going to need some basic office supplies.

I go through notebooks and sticky notes very quickly, and I also use office supplies many people probably don’t already have in the house, like bankers boxes.

You may need to buy software, a new lamp or a chair you can handle sitting in all day long. Office supplies can be so expensive, we’ve got an entire post with tips for saving money on home office gear.

Here’s one more tip: If you live near a FedEx Office or print shop, do your printing and faxing there instead of buying your own printer and fax machine -- but first, make sure the per-page costs are worth it for the amount of printing you need.

If you already have a printer, you can earn back some of the costs by selling your used ink cartridges.

4. Food

You might assume working from home will save you money on food costs because you won’t be tempted to go out to eat every day.

Instead of saving money by packing a lunch, you can save money by opening your refrigerator.

The problem? There has to be something in your refrigerator.

Unless you stay on top of your grocery shopping and meal planning, you’re going to end up ordering takeout or heading to the nearest coffee shop for another $12 sandwich and $5 cappuccino.

When you work from home, plan your lunches and leftovers just like you were planning to take them to work.

After all, the same basic conditions apply: When lunchtime rolls around, you’re going to want something you can quickly put together that tastes great. If that’s not what’s in your fridge, you’re going to end up paying extra for prepared food -- just like you would at the office.

Same goes for dinner, by the way. Doing those evening grocery runs is a little harder if you work from home.

You’re not stopping at the grocery store on the way home from work. Instead, you’re finishing your workday, going to the grocery store and coming back home.

Some nights, it’ll seem like too much trouble -- or you’ll be too hungry -- and you’ll just order takeout. (Trust me, I’ve been there.)

So keep your kitchen stocked and learn how to plan and prep meals in bulk. You want to always have food when you need it, without spending work hours on cooking and cleanup.

5. Exercise

I started my freelance career in a tiny apartment, where my “home office” was a desk 3 feet from my bed.

Guess how many steps I took in a typical day?

Once I got my Fitbit and committed to a regular exercise routine, more than 10,000. If I weren’t tracking my steps, it might have been a lot closer to 2,000.

Fitbits aren’t free, and neither are gym memberships, yoga classes, running shoes or any of the other accessories and tools we use to stay fit.

If you’re an employee working from home, you may still have access to company benefits like reduced gym memberships. If you’re a freelancer or independent contractor, those costs are all on you.

If you’re looking to save money on workouts, we have some low-budget, high-impact ideas.

6. Travel

Travel is the biggest line item in my freelance budget.

Even if you’re not the kind of person who regularly flies across the country to speak at conventions and conferences, you’re still going to find yourself on the road more than you realize.

Those little trips to visit the office or meet a client add up, even if you’re only traveling a few miles.

Here’s a quick example of the costs involved in a standard hourlong “meet a client” trip.

First, you need to pay to get there (car, bus, Uber). If you have a car, you probably need to pay for parking. If you’re meeting the client at a coffee shop, you’re paying for your coffee and maybe even the client’s, depending on the relationship.

Yes, you can deduct many of your travel expenses if you’re a freelancer or independent contractor (as always, talk to your tax adviser to learn what you can and can’t deduct).

However, travel is also costly because it prevents you from getting your other work done.

If you live in an urban area, an hourlong client meeting can easily stretch to three hours when you count transportation both ways. That’s a big chunk of the workday -- gone.

If you’re a salaried employee working from home, you got paid for those hours. If you’re a freelancer, you probably didn’t -- and you’ll have to figure out how to make up the cost of your time.

7. Social Activities

When you work at an office, going home feels like a relaxing end to the day.

When you work from a home office, sometimes you feel like you’ll only relax if you go somewhere else!

Some people who work from home find they spend more money going out with friends, taking evening classes or just getting out of the house.

Other people are happy to be homebodies and don’t mind seeing the same four walls day in and day out.

Know which person you are more likely to be, and adjust your budget accordingly.

8. Professional Development

Think of professional development as “social activities that help your career.”

If you do professional development right, you meet new people and build your skills at the same time -- and both of those benefits will help you land your next job or new client.

But -- you guessed it -- professional development costs money.

Employees may get a little help from their employers, but you still may end up paying for the cost of the course, the transportation to get there, the drink or coffee with your new friends after the course is over, and so on.

You also may want to buy a new outfit, print new business cards and make yourself as professional as possible before your activity begins.

You don’t want to avoid professional development costs completely, but you can make sure you’re spending in the right way.

Before you sign up for an event, thoroughly research it.

Is the event going to add to your skill set? Who else attends these events, and are they at the same career level as you? Are there YouTube videos of previous events? Reviews?

Even something as simple as checking on how many Twitter followers an event has can help you determine whether this professional development opportunity will be worth your time.  

9. Missing Out on Tax Deductions

I’ve mentioned tax deductions a few times already, but I want to give them an entire section.

If you don’t take advantage of all your available tax deductions, you’re leaving money on the table -- money you earned, by the way.

Your laptop, smartphone, internet package, office supplies, travel expenses, professional development costs, home office’s square footage, even the electricity your home office uses -- all of these items have the potential to be tax deductions.

They also have the potential to not be tax deductions, depending on your situation, so talk to a tax professional to find out what you can deduct.

If you’re a freelancer or independent contractor, your deductions are likely to be more significant, but even employees who work from home can often deduct some home office expenses.

Your Turn: What are your biggest work-from-home expenses? What advice do you have for other telecommuters and freelancers who want to keep their costs down?

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.

Still scrambling for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift?

Wondering how you’re going to get your special someone something truly special -- without spending a lot of money in the process?

Even if you’ve only got $5 in your pocket, you can still make this Valentine’s Day memorable.

50 Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Under $5

To add to the list of affordable ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day, here are 50 last-minute gifts that all cost less than $5.

1. Mixtape

The cassette (or CD) mixtape has been a tried-and-true gift for decades. Best Buy and Amazon both sell single cassettes or blank CDs for under $5.

So get yourself 90 minutes of blank tape, and fill it up with the best love songs you know. Make your gift extra special by hand-decorating the cover.

2. Spotify Playlist

Want to bring the mixtape into the 21st century? Make your special someone a Spotify playlist. You don’t even need Spotify Premium; just get the free version of Spotify for your desktop, build the perfect list, and share it with your valentine.

3. Lloyd Dobler Serenade

Take the iconic image of Say Anything’s Lloyd Dobler holding a boombox over his head as you model and get ready to tell your valentine that “In your eyes... I am complete.”

Use an actual boombox if you have one, or pull out your iPhone and crank up the volume. This one works best if your Valentine is a fan of classic ’80s movies.

4. Favorite Jelly Belly Flavor

Nearly everybody has a favorite Jelly Belly flavor. (Mine’s popcorn.) Figure out your bae’s favorite bean, then use the Jelly Belly store locator to find a store near you that sells Jelly Bellys in bulk.

5. Bulk Candy

Maybe your special someone doesn’t like jellybeans but does like chocolate-covered almonds. The bulk candy aisle offers plenty of opportunities to put together a $5 gift that tastes better -- and is much more personalized -- than a cheap box of waxy Valentine’s candy.

Remember, if you’re giving jellybeans or bulk candy, the presentation is also what makes the present: Put it in an attractive bag or box, tie it up with a ribbon and make your gift as special as the recipient.

6. Handmade Card

While we’re on the subject of crafts and presentation, a handmade card can often be one of the best and most treasured Valentine’s Day presents.

Anyone can go to the grocery store and get a 99-cent card with a pre-printed message. Only you can make a one-of-a-kind card with your own heartfelt statement of love.

7. Handmade Jewelry

Believe it or not, there are a lot of quick, easy, low-cost jewelry projects you can put together in a few hours.

Start with this list of recycled jewelry ideas for inspiration, and consider making something like a paint chip petals necklace or a set of popsicle stick pencil earrings. The most expensive part of this project is buying the chains and clasps that hold your jewelry together, so go to a hobby store and look for chains and fixtures under $5.

8. Art

Do your talents lie more in painting or sketching than they do in jewelry? Make your special someone a piece of original art. It’s hard to go wrong with a flattering portrait or a sketch of the place where the two of you shared your first kiss.

Your cost investment depends on how many art supplies you currently have around, but a hobby store often sells individual sheets of art paper for under $5. Even an ink drawing on a piece of good paper can look beautiful.

9. Art For Two

First, make your own finger paint from one of the many recipes available. Then, buy the biggest sheet of poster board you can get for under $5, and invite your Valentine to make art together.

The tactile, messy finger paint is a lot of fun, and if you choose an edible fingerpaint recipe, you’ll have one more way to remember the evening.

10. Poem

Write your valentine a love poem. It worked for Shakespeare, and it’ll work for you. Choose one of the classic poetry formats, such as the sonnet or the villanelle, or create your own.

11. Song

Take your poem one step further by setting it to music. How many people get a song written just for them? Perform it for your special someone on Valentine’s Day, and you’ll learn that the best gifts don’t have to cost a thing.

12. Band Performance

Got a friend who can play bass and a buddy who knows the drums? Teach them the song you just wrote, or ask if they’ll be willing to help you cover a song that has a special meaning for you and your valentine. Then give your valentine a never-to-be-forgotten concert.

13. Request a Song

Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best. If your local radio station takes requests, request your special song. Text your valentine when it’s time for your song to play, or listen to it together.

14. Stargazing

This is an old classic, but it’s a classic for a reason. If the night is clear and it’s not too cold, take your date out stargazing. You’ll start out looking at the stars and end up looking at each other.

15. Long Walk

The long walk is often part of the stargazing date, but it can also stand on its own. Find somewhere beautiful in your neighborhood, like the park or the pier, and take your date out walking.

A long walk filled with meaningful conversation can be a beautiful way to make memories and share an evening together.

16. Picnic

If you’ve got a well-stocked pantry, you have a great picnic for under $5. Take some bread, cheese, boiled eggs, fruit and chocolate out to your favorite park, and watch the sun go down.

The good thing about a picnic is that you can make it as extravagant or as simple as you can afford. If you’ve got fancy cheese, great; if not, you can cut up store-brand cheddar into cubes and add your own toothpicks. Either way works perfectly for a lovely picnic date.

17. Fancy Fast Food

Your date probably has at least one fast food restaurant that is a guilty pleasure. This year, get yourselves all dressed up, and go on a fancy fast food date.

Taco Bell is a great choice, both because you’ll be able to eat for under $5 and because you can give your date hot sauce packets stamped with words like “You’re my soulmate.”

18. Old Shirt

Give your special someone an old T-shirt. Chances are, they’ll sleep in it because it smells like you.

As with most of the gifts on this list, presentation is everything; handing your sweetheart an old shirt is gross, but wrapping it up and writing a heartfelt message is lovely.

19. Old Shirt Turned into a Pillow

Take the T-shirt idea to the next level by turning an old T-shirt into a pillow. Use this Instructables guide to get started. You’ll need to get something to stuff the pillow with, which you can generally get at a craft store (or somewhere like Walmart) for under $5.

20. Old Stuffed Animal

Nothing says “I’m in this for the long term” like “This was my old stuffed bear, and I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.”

Giving the gift of an old stuffed animal shows your special someone that you love and trust them enough to share one of your most treasured possessions. Plus, they’ll probably sleep with it because it smells like you.

21. Book From Your Bookshelf

Have a favorite book that you think your valentine will love just as much? Take it off your bookshelf, write an inscription and turn it into a gift. It’s just as intimate as giving a stuffed animal or an old T-shirt, and you can talk about the book together afterwards.

22. Used Book

Don’t want to give away your only copy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being? Find it in a used bookstore. You can often get used books for under $5, and they make excellent presents.

23. Home-cooked Meal

As with the picnic idea, whether you’ll be able to keep this one under $5 depends on what you already have in the pantry.

Remember that even a simple meal of spaghetti and garlic bread can be memorable and remarkable if you present it correctly. Table settings, candles and mood music all help make the evening.

This is also a great way to bring in that group of friends who have agreed to cover your valentine’s favorite song!

24. Homemade Cookies

While everyone else is getting expensive bouquets delivered to their valentine's workplaces, why not give your date a plate of delicious homemade cookies? You can also take these cookies with you for a picnicking or stargazing adventure.

25. “I Love You” Cake

Even if you don’t think of yourself as much of a cake decorator, you can still bake a cake from a box, add frosting and then use decorator icing to spell out “I Love You.” (You might want to practice a few times on a plate to get the knack of making legible letters.)

Here’s the real question: Can you make this cake for under $5?

Your grocery store prices might vary, but Target is currently selling a box of Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix for $1.12, the matching Funfetti frosting for $1.52 and a tube of Wilton sparkle gel for $1.99 -- which brings you to $4.63 (pre-tax) before you add in additional ingredients like eggs.

So, like many of the food items on this list, keeping your costs under $5 depends on what you already have in your kitchen, and how many Target hacks you use to save on your purchases.

26. Binge-watch a Favorite Show

We’ve talked about watching a movie together, but why limit yourself to a movie? Why not spend Valentine’s Day binge-watching a favorite show?

This year, Valentine’s Day is a Tuesday, which means you can get off work and veg with “The Walking Dead” (so romantic) or “Parenthood.”

27. Ebooks

If your special someone owns a Kindle, a Nook or another e-reader, there are gobs of books available for under $5. Look for the 99-cent listings so you can give multiple books and make your gift look extra-special.

28. ISBN

Here’s a gift that I gave someone in college: I made a card and then, next to the thoughtful message, wrote down an ISBN.

The gift recipient then took the ISBN to the library, looked it up and checked out the book that I had selected for him. It was a fun way for me to “give” him a book that I couldn’t afford to buy.

29. Puzzle Hunt

Here’s another free gift that I have given people: Create a puzzle hunt for your valentine. It can be something as simple as a card with a coded message inside or something as complex as a scavenger hunt where one puzzle leads to another.

If you aren’t familiar with codes and ciphers, you’ll find plenty online, or you can always use the simple A=1, B=2, etc.

30. Dollar Store Gift

Every dollar store has a few surprising treasures, whether it’s a hilarious toy or a collection of silly stickers. If your valentine appreciates a humorous gift, find something fun at the dollar store and make your valentine smile.

31. Thrift Store Gift

Like dollar stores, thrift stores offer a range of humorous items, but they also often have true diamonds hidden among the rough. Look for jewelry boxes, figurines, collectibles and other items that you can find for $5 and make good presents.

32. Love Thoughts in a Jar

All you’ll need for this one is a jar and a few pieces of paper. Tear or cut the paper into strips and write something special on each strip. Then, fold the strips in half and put them into the jar.

When your valentine wants a little extra love, all he or she has to do is take a strip out of the jar and read one of your messages.

33. Book of Memories

Buy an inexpensive sketchbook or notebook. Then, fill each page with a memory -- the place you first met, the first time you held hands, the concert the two of you attended last spring. Draw, write, glue in ticket stubs.

Do whatever you want to make this book a true book of memories. Chances are it will be an unforgettable gift.

34. Coupon Book

The coupon book is another classic gift that has almost become cliché. The secret to making it work is to put together coupons that your valentine actually wants.

Does your valentine like picking the movie you watch together? Does your valentine like not having to do the dishes? Choosing the right coupons is what makes this gift special.

35. Massage Night

Get some massage oil, put some towels over freshly washed sheets and give your special someone the massage he or she has always wanted. Try the Ask Men massage guide if you’ve never given a massage before, or look for more resources online.

36. Private Dance Party

Load up your smartphone with slow dance music, and find the perfect location for a private dance party -- maybe it’s your living room or maybe it’s in the park under a streetlight. Then take your valentine dancing.

37. Kitten or Puppy

If your valentine has been thinking about getting a cat or dog, look in your local newspaper or on Craigslist for people who are giving away kittens or puppies. It’s best if the animals already have their shots and are litter- or house-trained.

Be careful before giving live animals -- make sure your valentine wants a pet and has a living situation that can handle one before you hand over a wriggling bundle of cuteness.

38. Shared Journal

Get an inexpensive notebook, write a journal entry and give it to your Valentine with the instructions to read what’s inside, write a new journal entry, and give the notebook back.

Keep this pattern going until the notebook is full. A shared journal is a lovely way to write about hopes, dreams and plans for the future.

39. Love Letters

Have you read the book “The Wednesday Letters”? It’s the story of a man who writes his wife a new love letter each Wednesday.

Why not make this Valentine’s Day the start of a Wednesday letter tradition of your own? Give the gift of a love letter, and tell your valentine that it is the first of many to come.

40. Local Events

If you are looking for free Valentine’s Day entertainment, check out your local paper. There might be a band playing in the park or another fun, free event.

What’s happening in your city?

41. Fancy Game Night

Get dressed up, open a $5 bottle of wine and play games all night long. You and your valentine can face off on Mario Kart, finally finish a game of Monopoly or challenge each other to an evening of “Magic: The Gathering.”

42. Clean All The Things

Want a gift that your valentine will really love? Try a perfectly cleaned home.

Find an excuse for your special someone to be out of the house or apartment on Valentine’s Day morning and then scrub, wash, sweep and fold. Top it off with a few flowers in a vase or a plate of homemade cookies on the table.

43. The 36 Questions

If you read the New York Times’ Modern Love column, you might have seen the piece about The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.

These questions, which include “What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?” and “When did you last cry in front of another person?” are designed to build intimacy and bring people closer together.

Spend an evening asking your valentine those questions -- and answering them yourself -- and it becomes an evening you’re unlikely to forget.

44. Truth or Dare

Don’t want to do the full list of 36 questions? Try a good old-fashioned game of Truth or Dare instead. You can ask your valentine thoughtful questions, and then dare your valentine to kiss you.

Everybody wins.

45. Museum Date

Check out the museums in your area to see if any of them are offering free or reduced-price tickets. Then get dressed up and spend an evening appreciating art, textiles, historical documents or whatever your city or hometown has on display.

46. One Rose

If you can’t afford a bouquet of roses, see if your local flower shop is selling single roses. A single red rose often says more than a whole dozen.

47. Grocery Store Flowers

Even the most humble of grocery store bouquets can become beautiful with a little help. Take the flowers out of the plastic, trim them and put them into a vase. Or, if you don’t have a vase on hand, get a glass jar out of the recycling bin, rinse it out and put the flowers in.

48. Conversation

Sometimes the gift of conversation is all that is necessary. Find a park bench, sit down with your valentine and just talk. How often do you get hours of time to talk with someone you love? This year, give your valentine the gift of uninterrupted conversation and undivided attention.

49. Proposal

A proposal transforms Valentine’s Day into a truly special event. You can even do the proposal for under $5 -- Neil Gaiman drew a Sharpie ring on Amanda Palmer’s hand in lieu of an engagement ring, and if it’s good enough for Neil Gaiman, it’s good enough for anyone.

50. Ask Your Date

Want a low-cost Valentine’s Day but are still stumped for ideas even after reading this list of 50 suggestions? Ask your date what he or she would like to do. Two heads are better than one, after all, and you’ll probably come up with something amazing that even I didn’t think of.

Your Turn: What is the best low-cost Valentine’s Day gift you ever received? What made that gift special?

Nicole Dieker is a freelance copywriter and essayist. She writes regularly for The Billfold on the intersection of freelance writing and personal finance, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, Yearbook Office, and Boing Boing.

Shopping with young children in tow is a necessity for a lot of families. For many parents, the kids have to come along or the shopping doesn’t get done.

So what do you do on a big shopping day like Black Friday?

Do you wake the kids up early and get in line for the doorbusters? Do you pack distractions to keep kids’ hands busy as you travel from store to store? If you’re buying holiday presents, how do you keep curious eyes from spying their gifts in advance?

I reached out to Rosemarie Groner at The Busy Budgeter, who has two young children, for her advice on what to do. Here’s how she recommends going Black Friday shopping with kids in tow.

Delight and Distract

If you have an iPad or an iPhone with a kid-proof case, this would be a great time to break that out,” Groner told us. An all-day shopping trip becomes much more fun when kids are given rare access to unlimited screen time.

It’s also a good idea to pack small toys to keep kids entertained, and Groner suggests packing special toys that kids don’t usually get to play with.

It’s also possible to buy new toys to increase the delight/distract factor, but make sure you keep those toy purchases within your budget!

Packing your kids’ favorite snacks is another great way to delight and distract. The kids get their favorite goodies -- and yes, this is the time to pull out those special-occasion treats -- and you also save money by not having to buy snacks at the food court.

“Packing a cooler full of drinks, sandwiches and portable snacks like Go-Gurt, trail mix and chips can help you avoid the high cost of eating out,” Groner explained. It’ll also help you keep the kids happy, fed and hydrated so you can keep shopping.

How do you do your holiday shopping when your kids are within eyesight? Here are Groner’s suggestions:  

“For younger kids, you can buy holiday gifts with them right next to you using the distraction method: ‘Whoa! Look over there! Balloons!’ Then slip the toy into a store tote bag.

“When you get to the checkout, asking the cashier to discreetly check out while you keep the kids occupied can help you keep the presents a surprise.”

Of course, it’s a lot easier to shop for holiday gifts if your kids are asleep.

That’s why Groner advises parents to “Pack blankets and pillows to put in carts and strollers.” Kids can take a nap when they get tired, and you can keep hunting down those Black Friday bargains.

Skip the Doorbusters

While we’re on the subject of sleep: Should you wake up the kids at 3 a.m. so you can stand in line for doorbuster deals -- or camp out in front of the store overnight to be the first ones inside?

Groner says no: “Unless I could save several hundred dollars on something I would have bought anyway, I would skip the frustrations involved in that. I can’t think of anything that I could get to make camping outside of a store with kids overnight worth it. Not even for a free iPhone 6.”

If you’re disappointed to be missing out on doorbusters, Groner suggests looking for Cyber Monday deals instead. You’ll often find great deals on electronics, home goods, holiday gifts and more -- and you can shop without having to get out of bed!

Work in Teams

If you’ve got another parent, relative or friend available to shop with you on Black Friday, use the power of teamwork.

It’s a great idea to team up with another adult,” Groner told us. “That would give you both a chance to break away for a few minutes kid-free to grab something while the other handles the kids.”

Having two adults present helps the shopping go more quickly because you can cover more ground. One of you can hit up the Electronics section while the other one visits Toys, for example.

With two adults, you also have someone available to take kids to to the bathroom, sit with them as they eat a snack and help entertain them when they get bored.

Of course, if you have two adults available on Black Friday, that also gives you another option: Have one adult babysit as the other one shops.

As Groner puts it: “An even better way to team up with another adult is to have her watch your kids from her home while you grab her shopping list of bargains for her.”

Your Turn: What are your tips for shopping Black Friday sales with kids? Share your suggestions and your stories in the comments.

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.

How much do you like your job?

If your boss offered you a month’s salary to quit, would you take the money?

What about $5,000? Or $25,000?

Some companies are so committed to the idea that the best employees are the ones who really want to be there that they’ve created programs that offer cash to people who quit their jobs.

The idea is that the employees who don’t enjoy their jobs will take the money; the ones who love their jobs will keep coming to work every day.

Here are five companies that will pay you to quit your job:

1. Zappos

[caption id="attachment_35472" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Quit your job Image from Zappos/Facebook[/caption]

Let’s start with shoe and clothing company Zappos, famous both for its customer service and what it calls “The Offer”: If new hires don’t enjoy working for Zappos, the company will pay them one month’s salary to leave.

Zappos is all about customer service, after all -- and if you aren’t happy with Zappos, you might not be the best person to help make Zappos’ customers happy.

In 2015, Zappos took The Offer one step further. The company was transitioning its management style, so Zappos offered current employees the opportunity to take a severance package in the amount of either three months’ salary (at minimum) or one month’s salary for every year worked.

This was another way of saying “if you aren’t going to be happy working for us, we’d like to make it easy to choose something else.” As Zappos reports, approximately 18% of its staff took the severance.

2. Amazon

[caption id="attachment_35474" align="aligncenter" width="639"]Quit your job Scott Lewis under Creative Commons[/caption]

In 2009, Zappos was acquired by Amazon. In 2014, Amazon announced its own version of The Offer: a program called “Pay to Quit.”

Here’s how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained it to shareowners:

Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.

In other words: Work for Amazon for four years, and it’ll pay you $5,000 to walk away. The bosses hope you love working for Amazon so much that you can’t imagine saying goodbye -- not even for $5K.

3. AdoreMe

[caption id="attachment_35479" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Quit your job Image from Adore Me/Facebook[/caption]

If you think $5,000 sounds like a lot of money, how about $10,000?

That’s how much lingerie company AdoreMe offers its departing employees. As Bloomberg reports:

Like many popular benefits these days, the generous parting gift is an attempt to signal the existence of a positive company culture, both to employees who stay behind and those yet to come. The type of organization that gives loyal, hard-working employees a pile of money is, in theory, a desirable place to work.

Bloomberg also notes that the $10,000 bonus is not given to every employee who turns in a two-week notice, and quotes CEO Morgan Hermand-Waiche: “We would do it for anyone that has put in a lot of hard work and effort at Adore Me.”

4. Riot Games

[caption id="attachment_35481" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Quit your job Image from riotgames.com[/caption]

Riot Games, the company behind the massively popular multiplayer game “League of Legends,” also gives its newest hires the opportunity to quit their jobs and walk out with some cash.

New Riot employees have six months to determine whether the company is a good fit. If they decide they don’t want to stay, Riot gives them 10% of their salary with a $25,000 maximum.

Riot named its incentive plan after the gaming term “Queue Dodge,”  and explains it this way:

If someone gags on the unique flavor of our culture, they’d be doing themselves and the company a disservice to hang on just for the paycheck.

5. DealDash

[caption id="attachment_35482" align="aligncenter" width="639"]Quit your job Image from dealdash.com[/caption]

Auction site DealDash has a workforce that’s spread across six countries -- as of this writing, it has job openings in London, Minneapolis and two cities in Finland -- and it’s ready to not only build the best possible team but also pay $6,000 to any employee who resigns.

As the DealDash job listings explain:

We believe people who work at DealDash should only do so because they love it, not because it's their only option financially.

That’s a really healthy way to approach employment -- and offering the $6,000 resignation bonus helps make sure that DealDash employees have at least one other financial option: quit their job, take the $6,000 and start looking for something they love.

Your Turn: Would you quit your job if your employer offered you $5,000? How about $10,000? Do you love your job so much that no amount of money could convince you to leave?

Nicole Dieker is a senior editor at The Billfold, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, The Write Life, Boing Boing and Popular Science.

Since I enjoy reading and supporting my local bookstore, I purchase about one physical book a month.

But I also purchase two or three ebooks a month, regularly buy Amazon Season Passes to my favorite television shows and buy music from sites like Bandcamp.

Sound familiar?

So there’s a lot of digital media on my laptop, phone and e-reader that’s, technically, mine -- I’ve paid to own it and access it whenever I want.

But I’m also aware this digital media could disappear at any time.

You might remember when Amazon deleted copies of George Orwell’s “1984” and “Animal Farm” from users’ Kindles, even though they’d purchased digital copies of the books. As The New York Times explained, Amazon pulled the copies because the books were sold by a third-party company that didn’t have the rights to the text.

More recently, Consumerist reported a customer purchased a “digital double feature” of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “Horton Hears a Who” from Amazon. The site removed the second half of the streaming video -- and then restored it after the story came out. The user also got a $10 credit.

Amazon isn’t the only company that can make changes to your purchased digital media. As BuzzFeed reports, several people have complained about Apple Music regularly consolidating or deleting music files, meaning a carefully curated music library could disappear overnight.

So what can you do to keep the digital media you pay for?

Start by confirming you have the right to make a backup copy, then get ready to save those files. But be aware: Even if you save them, the files may only work on certain apps or programs.

Read the Terms of Service

If you’re going to do this the right way, you need to start by taking a look at your terms of service. This is also a good way to confirm what digital media you actually own, and what media you’re temporarily licensing.

For example, the Amazon Video Terms of Use states: “You may download and store your own copy of Purchased Digital Content on a Compatible Device authorized for such download so that you can view that Purchased Digital Content if it becomes unavailable for further download or streaming from the Service.”

The Amazon Kindle Store Terms of Use, on the other hand, includes no such provision. Instead, it clarifies, “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.”

That means you don’t really own it. You’re also only allowed to “view, use, and display” content, not download it.

Apple Music’s Terms of Service states: “You will not be able to access content stored in your iCloud Music Library when your Apple Music Subscription ends, but you can download songs that were previously acquired from the iTunes Store.”

Apple Music also warns you it might change the format of your music, and you should back up your music library before starting the program.

“Unidentified songs on your device will remain in local storage, and unidentified songs on your computer are uploaded to iCloud Music Library in the same format or a format determined by Apple. You should back up your Music Library before setting up your Apple Music Subscription or enabling iCloud Music Library.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to make your backup, and other ways of saving your digital media.

How to Start Saving Your Digital Media

If you’re going to back up your music library -- or any digital file library -- you can use a cloud storage option like Dropbox, but I’d suggest saving copies of your digital files to an external hard drive. Apple also recommends this option.

External hard drives aren’t cheap, so you can expect to pay around $50 for a drive that attaches to your laptop or computer via USB and serves as a storage unit for files.

If you want to download videos purchased through Amazon, you have to start with the whole “compatible device” part -- which, in this case, means a device that can run the Amazon Video app. Downloading through the Amazon Video app saves a copy you can watch with the app when data and Wi-Fi are not available.

At this point, you’re probably wondering if there’s a way to get those video downloads off your device and onto an external storage system.

If you have a fifth-generation Kindle Fire, Amazon gives you instructions for saving video downloads (as well as ebooks and other downloads) to an external MicroSD card. MicroSD cards run anywhere from $5-$40 (or more!), depending on the amount of storage space.

If you’re working with a different device -- such as a smartphone or tablet -- saving files to an external storage system is more challenging.

Some smartphones and e-readers allow you to connect the device to your computer via USB and view (and copy) all of the files saved inside the device. My Kindle Paperwhite includes this function, as did my HTC Evo phone.

However, my iPhone 6 does not. Apple wants you to keep all of your iPhone data synced and backed up on iCloud, which doesn’t allow you to directly access certain types of digital media files -- such as Amazon Video or Amazon Kindle files.

If you’re curious, IMore has a great guide to using and navigating iCloud. There are plenty of third-party “file manager” apps designed to let you view, copy and save the files inside your Apple devices. I haven’t personally tested any and advise using those apps at your own risk.

Be aware that even when you download certain files, there may still be restrictions. A Kindle .azw file can only be read on a Kindle device or app, while Amazon video downloads can only be viewed through the Amazon Video app.

I’ve also been in situations where media I downloaded could no longer be accessed through its designated app. Even when you think you “own” something, you may not have the ability to stream it.

So, to summarize:

  • Back up your iTunes library onto an external hard drive.
  • If you have a Kindle Fire, save digital files to an external MicroSD card.
  • Some devices may allow you to connect to your laptop via USB and make copies of files, which you can then save to an external hard drive.
  • Third-party file manager apps are available, but use them at your own risk.

Your Turn: Do you make backups of your digital media? What advice do you have for people who want to keep their digital files secure?

Disclosure: A toast to savings! Thanks for allowing us to place affiliate links in this post.

Nicole Dieker is a senior editor at The Billfold, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, The Write Life, Boing Boing and Popular Science.

I bet some of you are reading this post right now while eating a delicious homemade sandwich you brought to work.

Maybe a little sliced ham, Swiss cheese, the nice Dijon mustard with the little seeds in it?

Good on you. You don’t need me to tell you how much money you can save by preparing meals at home and packing lunches for work or school.

But here’s my question:

How many more sandwiches can you make with the bread you currently have?

If you don’t know the answer, you’re going to wake up one day and realize you only have enough bread for one more sandwich -- and you aren’t going to be able to make it to the grocery store until Friday.

So you’ll spend the next few days paying $12 to spend your lunch break standing in line waiting for someone else to make you a sandwich -- or you’ll have to put together a few sad desk lunches.

The average American spends $2,625 per year on restaurants, according to The Motley Fool. Meal planning can save you from spending extra cash on emergency lunches or late-night takeout. It’ll also save you from pretending two frozen blueberry waffles counts as a “lunch.”

You’ll eat healthier, save money and enjoy your meals a lot more when they’re planned!

How to Make a Meal Plan That Works

The first thing you’re going to need to do is figure out how many meals you’re responsible for making every week.

If it’s just you, your answer might be 21: seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Or it might be 20: seven breakfasts, seven dinners and six lunches because your manager always buys pizza for everyone on Fridays.

If you have a family, count meals per person -- a dinner for three people counts as three dinners, even if you all eat the same thing.

Now start thinking about the meals you make most often: the sandwiches, canned soups, salads and taco nights that make up an average week.

How many meals can you get out of a single loaf of bread? Does a bagged salad usually last for several meals? Or, does your family eat the entire bag in one night?

Once you start getting an idea of how long your food lasts, you can start planning ahead. You can look at a packet of sliced ham and think, “That’s four lunches.”

Once you start translating food into “number of meals,” you’re on your way to meal planning.

At this point, there are two ways to go.

Some people like to plan out every meal in advance: You’ll eat a ham sandwich on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then you’ll run out of ham and have a peanut butter sandwich on Thursday -- and then your boss will bring in pizza on Friday.

Other people like to think, “Well, I’ve got ham and I’ve got peanut butter, and I know I can make it to the end of the week.”

That’s the point of meal planning, after all: Figuring out how much food you need to buy to make it until your next grocery trip. Once you can do that, you’ll find yourself ordering emergency takeout much less often!

Try a Meal Planning App or Calendar

How can you keep track of your meal plan?

I can generally remember mine in my head, but some people use a meal planning app or tool.

Here are a few apps to consider:

  • $5 Meal Plan sends you a weekly menu of meals that cost about $2 a person (they even have a gluten-free version).
  • Plan To Eat features recipes and a drag-and-drop meal planning interface that auto-generates a grocery list.
  • Pepperplate includes recipes and meal planning, as well as a “cook now” function to set up multiple cooking timers for a complex meal.
  • Emeals lets you input your family size, number of meals needed and comes up with the meals for you. All you have to do is go shopping!

Or, go old school with pen and paper or a simple wall calendar.

Taking Your Meal Plan to the Grocery Store

Once you get to the grocery store, it’s time to put your meal plan in action.

Make a list through a meal plan app or with pen and paper -- and buy only what’s on the list.

I find meal planning makes my grocery shopping a lot easier because I know exactly what I’m going to buy and where to find it.

Since I buy the same items repeatedly, I also know which ones to stock up on when they go on sale. I just bought five packets of deli meat at a super discount. It’s going to make 20 lunches!

Stocking up on sale items also helps you plan ahead and freeze meals for the future. If there’s a way to buy in bulk and prep the foods you eat the most often, do it!

What about coupons? If you see a great deal on something you buy repeatedly, go for it. If you see a great deal on something you consider a treat, like a slightly more expensive brand of cereal, why not?

But when you see coupons for items that don’t fit in your meal plan at all -- like for frozen egg rolls, which you probably aren’t going to include in taco night -- you should move on and not waste your money or your food.

Which brings us to:

Eating What You Buy

Americans throw away a lot of food.

Over $165 billion of food is wasted each year, around $529 per person, USA Today reports.

You don’t want to waste $529 -- or more -- tossing your groceries into the trash. This means the last step in meal planning is making sure you eat what you buy.

How do you do this? It comes down to knowing what your food plan is and sticking to it.

Here are some tips:

  • Pack your planned lunches the night before, so you won’t be “too tired” in the mornings.
  • Make sure you always eat something different for lunch and dinner. If you make a lasagna, don’t eat it for dinner, then lunch, then dinner again. Break up the lasagna dinners and add variety with sandwiches or soup lunches.
  • Give yourself options. When you prepare your meal plan, tell yourself, “This week, I will eat either a sandwich or a homemade frozen burrito for lunch.” Then, you won’t feel locked down to any specific entree.
  • Prepare the same favorite entrees over and over to help you stick to your plan. You know everyone likes them, how to make them quickly and how long they last.
  • Have dedicated snack food, like almonds and string cheese, so you don’t get hungry and eat one of the entrees you’re saving for later in the week.

Also: commit to eating foods before they go bad.

This means if you’ve said, “I will eat either a lettuce salad or a sliced orange with dinner,” and the lettuce is starting to look a little wilted, commit to eating it first. The oranges will still be there when you’re done.

Figuring out a meal plan that works for you will probably take a bit of trial and error. So don’t get discouraged if you thought a casserole that would last all week gets eaten in two days and you’re stuck ordering takeout again!

The more you learn about your household’s eating habits, the better you’ll be able to shape your meal plans and prepare for a full refrigerator stocked with all the food you need.

Your Turn: Have you tried meal planning? Do you have advice for other meal planners?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. We would have shared them with you anyway, but a true "penny hoarder" would be a fool not to take the company's money. :)
Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.