How To Teach You Kid About Money — My Second Job

I didn't look this freaky when I took out the trash.
In my prior post, I discussed my first job as a newspaper deliveryman, er boy, at the age of 10. My second job — doing house chores to earn an allowance — started around the same time.

My Second Job: House Chores

I started getting a weekly stipend, or allowance, when I was around 11 or so. I was responsible for mowing the front lawn (the acre backyard was done by my father on a riding lawnmower), taking out the garbage, and keeping my room clean. In exchange, I got a $20 weekly allowance. This allowance was also to be used for discretionary expenses — school lunch, extra clothes, video games. School lunch was considered discretionary because my parents provided the food for packing a lunch but I could opt to buy a school lunch, which were $1 in middle school and started at $1.50 in high school.

Lessons from my Second Job: House Chores

  • Avoid spending money as a habit. Sure, that iPhone doesn’t seem that expensive now but if you calculate it across a year you are committing to at least $1,500. Can you hear me now? I try and think of any “habit expense” (i.e. subscriptions) in yearly terms. For example, I turn off my Netflix subscription when I’m traveling (save $120/year), freeze my gym membership during off seasons (save $500/year), and even unplug all the electronics in my house when leaving for at least two days (10% savings). In the end, I calculate I can squeeze out about $2,000/year — the cost of an additional vacation — just by avoiding or pausing unused subscriptions. Try this yourself the next time you get too busy for Netflix or are going on vacation. You might be surprised to find the stuff, and associated expenses, you don’t really miss.
  • Sell the stuff you don’t use. I’ve played hundred of video games on 8 different consoles, but looking at my video game collection you wouldn’t know it. That’s because after buying that next-gen console, beating the game, or even getting bored with either, I go ahead and sell them. In general, a $50 new game can often go for 50% the original prize. What’s more, if I bought the game used before, I can sometimes get away with 40 hours of entertainment for a mere $10-$12. You won’t find that type of deal anywhere else!
  • Use the freebies. Rather than blow 20%-50% of my allowance on the luxury of being lazy and buying a school lunch, I could have saved more than $1,000/year by packing them. Across middle school and high school, that’s nearly $8,000 before adjusting for inflation! Now, I only go out for lunch when it is with a colleague, and even then I’m usually using +50% off coupons from Groupon or Half Off Depot.
  • Keeps things novel. Rather than become the world’s best garbage taker-outer, I would rotate chores with my brother. By doing so, we could keep chores a bit more novel and even benefit from seasonal job fluctuations (i.e. there isn’t much mowing necessary in the winter, but way too much snow in Ohio).

Next time, my third job — mowing lawns.

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