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Elementary Economics

Image: Simon Howden /

Money is a big deal in our house.  We just like it 🙂  My dad is an accountant, my husbands dad is an accountant, both my husband and I have degrees in business and have always been entrepreneurial.   …they kids probably didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

I have been teaching the kids about money the same as I was taught when I was their age.  They get a specific amount for allowance.  They can make more money by doing extra school work and they lose money (by the penny) for not obeying.  Just like real life, money is tied into work ethic and behavior.

Once a week they can take full dollars out of their money cups for ‘pay day’.  20% goes in savings and 20% is donated in a way of their choosing (usually at church).  60% is theirs to spend as they wish.   Gift and other work money goes through the same process.  Lily has had a bank account for a few years now and Ian (just starting to get allowance this year) is almost ready to start his.   If they want candy or something from the store they use their own money.

So with all this education and family life going on Lily has picked up the entrepreneurial bug.  She really wants to make money. Now, to explain my daughter a bit, she is incredibly selfless (not sure where she got it from).  Last night I picked her up from her church program and she was holding small pieces of broken hard candy in her hand (…all melting) she was saving for her brother.  She shares everything.  When she made a bunch of money a few summers ago selling sweet corn from Grandpa’s farm she gave most of it to charity.  Then she buys stuff for other people when she shops.  So, when I say she wants to make money it is for the love of the process not because she is selfish or wanting stuff for herself.

She has been wanting to start a business for a while now.  She wanted to do a lemonade stand, but we really don’t have a good place to set that up. She has been trying to plan shows and invite random people to our house for $.25.  She has been reading books on how to make it all work. …but she is 8 years old.  I have no idea how to help her start a business. (but I do know she can’t invite random people to our house for $.25)

This week, with school work starting to wind down, she has really been brainstorming.  This is probably unschooling at it’s finest.  Coming up with a business, executing it, and learning from it.  I told her she could probably offer to walk dogs around our apartment complex or watch pets if their owners are gone on vacation (small and medium dogs only).  She jumped on that and made fancy signs which we placed in the mail building.  She also decided that she could pick up trash around the complex everyday and wrote out a business proposal.  When, where, how much, billing times, company name etc and took it to the manager.  She got points for being cute but they couldn’t hire her because of liability.

With no calls from the pet signs and a ‘no’ with trash pick-up she decided to try and sell pictures.  Having a photographer for a dad helps with making sure stuff looks good.  Check out her pitch 🙂  She got an order from grandpa for a cow picture so this idea was a bit more successful.

I am out of ideas and I feel terrible telling her that she can’t do the ones she does come up with.  So I wanted to ask you if you had any ideas for her.  Hardworking, motivated, 8 year old girl. Any idea what she could be doing to start her own business?


  1. When I was little, I used to pick wild flowers, make bouquets, and sell them to the neighbors. A lot of them involved grass…but when the going price was only $.50, most people jumped at the chance to make me happy 🙂

    • Kim Kim

      Heather, What a great idea. I know if a little girl came to my door selling wildflower bouquets, I would certainly buy…. Great Idea!

    • 🙂 When we were in our other neighborhood Lily did that some. We had super sweet neighbors that we knew well.

  2. Shari Shari

    How about a mother’s helper? Offering to help moms with younger children while mom gets
    Dinner ready, clean house, or whatever. She can entertain the younger ones by playing games, coloring, etc.

    • Thanks! (and welcome to the site) This sounds like a good idea. I will have to brain storm who we know that might need some help 🙂

  3. Cam Cam

    Great post Lorilee, and just to let you know, Lily’s uncle has also been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug too, although things are still in the early stages for him. 🙂

    Lily definitely sounds like she will be headed for great things, because service to others is the spirit that fuels entrepreneurs. I’m eager to hear more suggestions for activities for her.


    • You need to get ‘The $100 Start-up’. Just came out a few days ago. I have the info on my G+ account. I am trying to get through a few other books first but am excited to read this book in the next few weeks.

      • Cam Cam

        Thanks Lorilee. I will definitely add it to my read list.

        • I’m giving away a copy of the book on a blog post this Wednesday. I was part of Chris’ launch team and he sent me a frw copies 🙂 It’s an awesome book!

  4. Carmen Carmen

    I think the picture idea is a good one, although for some reason I assumed you meant photographic pictures 😉

    My suggestion would be Ebay. Initially she could raise money selling some of her toys/books/old clothes. Then perhaps she could think about making things: jewellery, keyrings, personalised items, dolls clothes, knitted scarves etc.

    Or how about door to door cookie/cake sales? She could design leaflets, deliver them around the neighborhood saying she’ll be coming round every (insert day & time) selling freshly baked goodies. Fresh bread and/or soup sold between 10-12 noon on Saturdays might go down well too.

    If she isn’t interested in money, I can’t help but wonder why she wants to make some. Or is this just adult logic talking? I’d encourage her to spend time doing what she enjoys, so if she loves animals, you could suggest she offers to volunteer at a local shelter for 1-2 hours/week cleaning up, feeding and petting the animals, making some colorful posters to encourage people to adopt them etc.

    I think it’s tricky being 8!

    • Thanks for all the ideas! 🙂 I didn’t mean to say she wasn’t interested in money. She is very interested in money but she isn’t selfish with it. She donates and buys lots of things for other people (especially her brother).

  5. Bracelets and kerchiefs to sell raising money for the local animal shelter. A young girl here in town does this very successfully. You go, Lily – the world needs more hearts like yours!

    • neat idea! I like doing a craft for a charity 🙂

  6. When I was young I sold vegetables door-to-door, collected and recycled newspapers, had a lemonade stand, etc. A friend of mine has children that make candles and roast their own coffee beans in a popcorn popper. Maybe she could make something and sell it on ebay.

    • Welcome to the site 🙂 Thanks for the ideas! I checked out etsy, but I think ebay may be better.

  7. Gem Gem

    Your post reminds me of a book I ran across a while back (and I can’t remember where). It’s called _Beyond the lemonade stand : starting small to make it BIG!_ by Bill Rancic and Karen Soenen. I haven’t read it but it allegedly is suppose to offer suggestions from kids on what they’ve done to earn extra money. It looks like it’s probably available at your public library so you could check it out and see if it’s any good (

    • requested 🙂 You are awesome!

  8. Emily Emily

    I’m not sure where you live, but in certain states there is a return on glass and/or plastic bottles. Maybe it could be her responsibility to collect the bottles and turn them in for the return. The same is true for aluminum cans. You can sell those at a scrap yard.

    • Thanks! I have thought of this, I am pretty sure there is a return center at our Whole Foods. We don’t use cans or glass bottles but both kids always want to pick up trash they find when we go for walks. …I am just never sure I want them too because of germs and such now.

      • how come you don’t use can or glass bottles?

        • haha, I didn’t mean to make it sound like that. I do try to keep the earth clean and nice…. we are just cheap and don’t buy pop. A few times we have apple sauce in glass or soy sauce, but most of the time that comes in plastic too. I haven’t figured out a way to recycle yet at the apartment. I keep meaning to figure it out… That was one thing that was way easier at the house (because there was pick-up).

          • ah gotcha. 😉 i read it like you don’t buy products if they are packaged that way. oops. 😉 the only place we had recycling pickup was in Texas…our garbage company picked it up for free! soooo handy!
            in NE & now in CA we have totes in the garage & drop it off ourselves. a little less handy but it gets the job done.

          • you are much better than I on these things. You are my inspiration 🙂

  9. Nancy Nancy

    My kids mostly make extra money by selling toys/things they no longer use on Craig’s List. We also don’t have a good location for a lemonaide stand, BUT when one of the neighbors in the cul-de-sac has a garage sale, they have found it to be great business if they set up with lemonaid and chocolate chip cookies for sale to their garage sale customers. (And on cold days, coffee instead of lemonaid.)

    • Yes, they tried to sell a bunch of stuff at a friends garage sale last weekend. They sold some, but not as much as they wanted too 🙁 I love the selling of treats and drinks though, we have done it a few times, but will have to keep hitting up friends to join them this summer if they do sales 🙂

  10. I love your daughter’s blog. It’s wonderful.

  11. Maybe a service to pick up mail for any elderly people in the neigborhood?

    • good idea. We are in an apartment complex and the mix of people has been a lot different than it was in our past neighborhood. I think apartment living is great…but, for the most part, it is lots of younger people moving a lot.

  12. we got a button maker for our kiddos, & they started designing & making their own line of buttons (the pin-on kind). this is fairly involved for dad, who is a graphic designer, but couple together quality time + entrepreneurial learning & it’s a super investment. especially for unschoolers. (yay!) my kids are 8, 6, & 3. the equipment is a bit tricky for them to handle alone, but soon they’ll be able to manage it themselves. the best part for me to watch is my daughter (6) coming up with design ideas (she’s a very natural artist, & this pushes her creativity, too. more learning. . . .). & for their young brains to begin to be involved in the entire microcosm of owning their own business (which is what daddy does for a living.). yay for more learning!!

    • wow, that sounds awesome! My husband is doing more creative and design things, something like this might be a great project for them to work on 🙂

  13. So cute! I love that you teach your kids about money-and that they are so ambitious! I can’t wait till my girlies are old enough to teach them this-my youngest is four. I guess I can start a bit now though. Wishing her the best of luck!!! I’ll check out her pictures in a second.

    • Lily started with allowance around 5 (if I remember right). Thanks 🙂

  14. this bug has bitten Grace too! i don’t know what to do with her!
    do you have your kids do specific jobs/chores for an allowance or is it just a given that they will get it each week? i haven’t decided what to do about allowance. i’m not sure i like the idea of them helping around the house for money…i kinda feel like helping around the house is what we do because we’re a family. but i also don’t want to just give them $5 a week for the heck of it. hmmm…
    i do like the idea of dog walking. we may have to try this once we’re done with school. also, the daughter of a friend here started making cookies & selling them to save money for the local animal shelter. that was a big hit!!!
    good luck! i’ll be anxious to see what you come up with ! 😉

    • I don’t like paying them for household stuff either. When we were remodeling houses we sometimes payed them to do different things but our house belongs to all of us…no one gets payed for picking up. I try and tie money in with school …because we work for money all our life, or good behavior (I give it to them and then they loose it when they don’t obey)

  15. Lorilee, what an excellent post and a blessing to see the fruit of that entrepreneurial spirit in Lily. And Lily did a great job on her pitch!

    Here’s one idea to throw around. What if she sells your neighbors a copy of all the neighbor’s favorite recipes that she compiled into scrapbook? She can have all the neighbors send her a copy their favorites, and I bet all who do will be the first one’s to buy it.

    She can even take a vote on how much your neighbors would buy one of these recipe scrapbooks for, and set the final price.

    Hope it helps 🙂

    • Great idea! Nice to meet you. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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