The first time I discovered the thrill of making my own money I was in fourth grade. I learned how to crochet yarn into small scarves at an after school program and pretty soon I had a whole bunch of them. My dad suggested I try selling them to people at a coffee house we were headed to one morning. I ended up selling all of them and asking my mom to go to the store the next day for more yarn. I made a sign, created a cash box and I was in business!
My parents have always been on a tight budget so as a family we look for ways to make what we have go further and try to make some money on the side. At least once a year our family organized a neighborhood garage sale. My sister and I would bake muffins and brownies and sell them to the shoppers. We would give out free coffee so people felt they got a good deal. We always made enough to buy a new toy or two.
Washing Cars In Middle School
During the summer, my younger sister and I would look for things we could do to stay busy and make money. In middle school one of our biggest money makers was washing cars. We would make flyers and go door to door in the neighborhood and make big signs to put in front of the house. My mom said we should consider not charging a specific price but just let people pay what they thought it was worth. I was skeptical at first, but it turned out that people paid us a lot more than what we would have charged. We had so many customers we were exhausted by the end of the day – but we made good money!
In about 7th grade I put together a flyer offering a variety of services such as dog walking, watering plants and lawns while people are on vacation, pet sitting, and being a “mother’s helper” since I wasn’t old enough to babysit yet.
Busking At The Park
By far, the best Side Hustlin’ gig for making money and one I enjoy the most is “busking”. I love playing guitar and singing – and I love performing. When I was in 9th grade my parents offered to take me to Balboa Park where I could practice/perform and get tips. Balboa Park is a huge park in San Diego full of museums, restaurants, gardens and a lot of street performers.
I’ll never forget the first time I went busking in the park. People were stopping to listen to me, they were putting dollar bills in my guitar case, they were telling me how good I was. It was incredible. My parents sat on the grass several yards away, making sure I was safe and of course taking pictures and video.
It’s been over three years since that first day and I’ve been back countless times. Sometimes I would play until my fingers were practically bleeding. It’s hard to stop when people keep tipping you. I’ve even been a tourist attraction, with tour groups tipping just to take photos with me.
I’ve learned so much about live performing and keeping audiences engaged and entertained. My mom gave me good advice telling me, “don’t do that pop kid stuff, children aren’t tipping, appeal to what the adults want to hear and sing along to.” We call them “money songs”. So I know a lot of popular songs from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
An Offer To Perform At A Wedding
One day, as I was performing in the park a woman approached me and offered me a job to perform at her wedding, which would be in the park. I thought she was a bit crazy to hire a 17-year-old who had never done a wedding but she liked my sound. Turns out, I was the crazy one. I had no idea how much responsibility and time would be involved learning a lot of new songs she wanted me to play. I totally undercharged her but it was a great first paid gig. It was definitely a learning experience in time management and figuring out how to charge for my time and effort. .
In the last couple of years I’ve also done a lot of babysitting by advertising on local websites and through referrals. Not only do I like the flexibility of babysitting and busking, I can make more money per hour than my friends who are working at retail jobs.
I work so hard to make money I always try to make it go as far as possible. I buy and sell my clothes at thrift and re-sale stores as well as on-line sites. I LOVE finding a good deal on a top name brand.
I am really excited to have been admitted to San Diego State University, which was my first choice. All my hard work in getting good grades paid off. Now I have to help pay for college through grants, loans, scholarships and working part time. I’ve been setting aside money for college but it is a small amount compared to the cost. My goal is to get my degree incurring as little debt as possible for me and my parents. This scholarship would really help toward that goal.
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Check out the other finalists here: 2017 Side Hustlin’ Student Scholarship Results Page.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.