Making Summer Pay: How to Put Your Kids to Work


In addition to sun, fun and sand, summer brings a lot of extra costs. Many of them come from taking care of your kids now that school's out. Even if you don't have to shell out for daycare or high-priced summer camps, for every hour that your kids are in the house, you're probably spending extra money on air conditioning, electricity and food.

So how can you trim the high cost of summer? One answer is to let your kids help. Whether they're learning how to write computer code, working a part-time job at the mall, or just weeding your garden, active kids are more likely to save you money. And it's good for them, too: Just because they're not in school doesn't mean that they can't use their time to learn about budgeting, personal finances, and the value of hard work.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to turn your teens into money machines.

Give them a jump start on college courses. College is expensive, and anything that you can do to cut down the time that your child spends at a four-year university translates into cash savings. With that in mind, you can get a great return on investment on summer classes at an inexpensive community college. While many require students to have a GED or high school diploma before they enroll, some community colleges are willing to make exceptions, depending on the class. For that matter, "massive open online courses" or MOOCs, are free and may help prepare your student for college-level coursework, so they can save on credits down the line.

'Hire' them for household projects. Parenting experts argue about whether it's a good idea to tie allowances to chores. Critics say children shouldn't expect to get paid for making a contribution to the household, while fans point out that cash can be one heck of a motivator. Regardless of where you stand, it's worth noting that tasks like cleaning the gutters, painting the deck, mowing the lawn and weeding the flower beds are time-consuming and expensive to outsource. If they're not inclined toward physical labor, consider cutting a deal for food prep and cooking -- not only will it save you time, they'll learn a few life skills in the bargain.

Send them to computer camp. As anybody who has ever hooked up mom's printer or defragged dad's hard drive can attest, one of the best reasons to have kids is to get free tech support. And if they are already going to be stuck with the annoying task of helping their parents, why not help them buff up their talents so they can turn them into marketable skills later? Across the country, coding camps are growing increasingly popular. If you don't want to spend the money to send them, Lifehacker has a nice roundup of games and apps that start your kids on the road to the job of the future.

Help them find a decent summer job. Of course, there's always the old standby of a summer job. But think beyond the mall. AOL Jobs has compiled a list of some of the biggest employers of 14- to 17-year-olds. For example, what teen wouldn't want to work at an amusement park -- no experience required!

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Originally published