Earning Money When You’re 16 and Broke

My school sells 50-cent cookies during our lunch break, and they are good.

Last year, I woke up late and in my waking state, left my lunch at home. By fourth period, my stomach was roaring. I imagined the cookie’s crisp, rugged edge, and sinking my teeth into its soft, warm center. I watched the red minute-hand inch towards 12:15 and bolted from my seat at the ring of the bell.

I was only two spots away in line from the cookies. I began digging through the front pocket of my backpack. I had no change. I pulled out my binders, notebooks, pencil pouch—not even a quarter. It was humiliating.

I have since recovered my financial condition without much effort. If you are like me and don’t have enough space in your schedule to get a real job, I came up with some alternative ways to scrape in the funds.

Sell Clothes to People at School

One day, my friends and I had an impulse to clear out our closets. Afterward, we created an Instagram account and listed our clothes at bargain prices. We advertised the new account on our Instagram stories, and people from school immediately began buying our items. We were essentially an online thrift store. All we had to do was bring their purchased items to school the next day and pocket the cash; no post office required.

You are not limited to a clothing account, either! If you bake, paint, or print custom t-shirts, take advantage of Instagram’s networking opportunities. Kids will buy them.

Host a Yard Sale with Friends

Yes, yard sales are a lot of work. Yes, you will get low-balled. And yes, someone may try to walk off with your Fat Albert DVD. This is why I recommend having a joint-sale with friends. Moral support is necessary among the garage sale fanatics—friends make the day fun and profitable.

If your town has a permit-free day, I suggest holding a yard sale then. Not only will you save money and time, but you will also traffic in scavengers of the city-wide sales.

Tip: Label each person’s items with colored Post-Its to ensure you receive rightful earnings when things become hectic.

Advertise on Nextdoor

The Nextdoor app is a private social network for your neighborhood. People post the newest town gossip, local crimes, restaurant recommendations, and business opportunities.

I regularly babysit for two couples who reached out to me on the app. The beauty of these jobs is that I can walk to their houses. People often turn to Nextdoor when their go-to guy cancels last minute; thus, the abundance of teen-babysitters and tutors on the server.

To market yourself, just set up a profile, write a paragraph about yourself, and advertise what you do.

Recycle Bottles and Cans

I was inspired after reading a story about a man who made $1,500 collecting bottles and cans on his work breaks. My family began saving our plastic bottles and storing them in trash bags. When the row of bottle-filled trash bags on the back deck became unsightly, we hauled them over to our local recycling center. I must warn you: relying on recycling as a substantial salary may be unwise, as each bottle is only valued between five to ten cents. On the other hand, you are getting paid to keep the Earth clean.

Click here to find your neighborhood recycling center.

Start a Change Jar

It is easy to think of change as nothing more than a hassle, clinking in pockets and weighing down purses. But, change is actual money. While this is more of a money-managing than a money-making tip, my change jar has saved me hundreds of dollars. Instead of letting coins run wild around your house and in your backpack, drop them in a Mason Jar.

With that said, continue to dig through couch cushions, bottoms of purses, desk drawers, and pants pockets. When others call these acts “cheap”, persevere and remember what Cicero said:

“Frugality includes all the virtues.”

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