When you reach my age and you find yourself eating light bulbs for a living, you know you've made some bad career moves along the way. -- Matt Hely, circus performer

School days are winding down and summer is around the corner. Chances are, a teenager you know is trying to figure out how to make some money. Chances are, he or she is feeling a little discouraged, too. After all, our sluggish economy today has some 10 million adults out of work and seeking employment. And when it comes to teen incomes, the usual suspects, such as babysitting or flipping burgers, don't appeal to everyone.

Rejoice, though! Moneymaking prospects for teens aren't quite as gloomy as they appear. With a little creative thinking, resourcefulness, and perseverance, your teen may be able to bring home a lot of bacon this summer, and even have a good time doing it.

Share this with a teen
Below is a big bunch of ideas for teens -- please share them with a young person you know. (Perhaps click on the "Email this page" link in the box to the right.) The ideas are adapted from our book, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of by David and Tom Gardner with Selena Maranjian. (We also have a related online area: Teens and Their Money.)

Ways to make money
There are lots of ways that teens can make money. Here are just a few:

  • An allowance. Not every teen gets one, of course, and your parents' beliefs or financial situation might mean you get little or nothing. But it's always worth asking for one, or asking for an increase. You never know!
  • Aside from an allowance, your parents might pay you for getting good grades in school, for reading a certain number of books, or for various jobs done around the house. You might even earn some money from siblings, if you offer to do some of their chores.
  • Selling things. If your closet or basement is full of belongings that you no longer need or want, consider selling them. You could hold a yard sale in your neighborhood -- you might even offer to sell other people's knickknacks, for a small fee or a percentage of the price. Another option is selling items online, such as through eBay.
  • Investing in the stock market or other kinds of investments.
  • Starting a business. This is an ambitious undertaking for anyone, teen or adult. It's not right for everyone, as it can mean a lot of responsibility and stress. But it can also be very rewarding (just ask Bill Gates!). To come up with some ideas, look closely at the people in your neighborhood or school and think about what products or services they might need.
  • A job! This is perhaps the most obvious way to earn money. Below are many possibilities.

Jobs for teens
Odds are, you have some skills. Perhaps you can swim well or speak Spanish, or you know how to take apart and put together a computer. All around you are people who might pay you for your expertise. You may be able to make a chunk of change for yourself doing what you know and love, instead of making less money working at a job you don't like. Meanwhile, here are a lot of other job possibilities:

  • Babysitting. This is the classic teen job, for good reason. Many parents find it difficult to find dependable babysitters. If you do a good job, you might be assured of work for many years.
  • Pet-sitting. When someone in your neighborhood goes on vacation or just works long hours, there's often a pet that needs looking after. People may pay you to visit their pets during the day and perhaps take them for a walk.
  • Parks departments. If you enjoy being outside, this might be a good option to explore. You may end up giving tours, watering greenery, or perhaps cleaning the grounds.
  • Tutoring. Some teens report that they earn anywhere from $5 to $20 per hour for tutoring. If you're good at a subject, you may be able to earn money by helping others to understand it.
  • Lifeguard. In some parts of the country, there have been shortages of lifeguards. Some have been earning $10 per hour or more. If you have the skills needed, consider this option.
  • Gardening. If you enjoy and are skilled at garden work, offer your services to others in your neighborhood. Many people don't have the time to do all they'd like to do in their gardens. Some might even pay you to build and tend a vegetable garden for them.
  • Camps. If you look into it early enough, you can line up a job at a summer camp -- you might work with kids, tend the grounds, prepare food, or any of a number of things.
  • Day Care Helper. If you enjoy working with young children, see if any day care centers near you could use some help.
  • Mowing lawns, raking yards, shoveling snow. Once your customers know you and the good work you do, they may use your services doing other jobs in other seasons. If you make $20 mowing each lawn and can do five in one day, then you've just worked hard and netted $100 in a day.
  • Factories. Factory work tends to be boring, repetitive, and dreary, but it can sometimes pay well.
  • Movie theaters, amusement parks, and other entertainment venues. These places hire many teenagers.
  • Department stores. A big perk with these jobs is that you often get to enjoy employee discounts (which can be substantial, such as 20%-30% off) and commissions on items you sell.
  • Work with cars. If you know what you're doing and you have a little money to start with, you might buy inexpensive used cars, fix them up, and then resell them, for a profit.
  • Be crafty. If you enjoy arts and crafts, you might make jewelry or other items and sell them -- perhaps on eBay, where you'll have instant access to a large customer base. Some painters and photographers sell their work online, too, though that can be harder to do.
  • Serve the elderly. You might work in an old-age home or retirement community, or just serve the elderly in your neighborhood. Many older people can't get around very easily. They may welcome your services delivering groceries, running errands, or doing odd jobs around their home.
  • Create websites. Many small companies and organizations will pay good money for someone to design and build a website for them. Perhaps check out a few books on website design from your library.
  • Be a computer guru. Many adults own computers but don't know how to use them very well. You can be a neighborhood computer expert, installing software or hardware, troubleshooting, and teaching people how to use various programs or the Internet. (Many people don't know how to use email, instant messages, and sites such as Google, eBay, or Amazon.)
  • Caddy at a golf course. This can help you meet a lot of adults from whom you might learn more about the business world and perhaps even make connections that will help you land other jobs.
  • Deliver newspapers. Having an ordinary suburban route can generate plenty of pocket money, while nabbing a big route that includes businesses, hotels, and/or apartment complexes can be extremely lucrative.
  • Get an internship. Even if it's unpaid, you can learn great future job skills and find out how much you like various fields and professions. Find out where your parents' friends and friends' parents work, and explore the possibility of interning.
  • Volunteer! If all else fails, and even as a first choice, consider volunteering. Don't just do the first thing that pops into your mind, though. Be a strategic volunteer. Think of a field or company you'd like to learn more about. If you're really concerned about hunger in America or the world, volunteer at a food bank. If you're thinking about becoming a doctor (perhaps one who treats the elderly), consider volunteering at a hospital (or a nursing home).

Make the most of your money
Finally, teens, once you're earning money, start thinking about saving and investing some of it. Small sums socked away now can turn into many thousands of dollars over time. Learn more in our area for teens.

As a teenager, Selena Maranjian tried to make money by selling rocks. She recommends teens try some of the ideas above instead. For more about her, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in books she has written or co-written: The Motley Fool Money Guide and The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens . The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.