Advertisement
savings

Should You Pay Kids to Shovel Snow?

Whether (and how much) you compensate neighborhood kids for their help depends on the circumstances.

I recently got a call from a New York Times reporter, who asked me a very timely question: Should children be paid for helping their neighbors shovel snow? Or should shoveling be considered a neighborly gesture for which no compensation is asked or expected? And if kids are paid, what’s the going rate?

Advertisement - Article continues below

The answer, I said, depends on the circumstances. If your kids have already set up a small business -- mowing lawns in the summer, shoveling snow in the winter, watering plants and picking up newspapers when neighbors are on vacation --then they ought to be paid for their work. But if it’s a matter of doing a good turn by helping the elderly couple across the street dig out from a blizzard, no payment is necessary.

What if your kids decide on the spur of the moment to go door to door and offer to shovel neighbors’ sidewalks? Should they charge everyone along the route? That would be fine (but I’d still make an exception for the elderly folks across the street).

How much to pay. Of course, circumstances aren’t always straightforward, and any situation that involves money can be awkward for both children and adults. Sometimes, for example, kids are reluctant to set a fee for their services, and adults often end up over- or underpaying.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

It’s better to agree on both the fee and the job upfront. I’d say that for shoveling snow, $10 to $20 makes sense as a starting point for most jobs. But be prepared to adjust from there depending on your expectations. Do you want the kids to shovel your driveway as well as the sidewalk? And do you want them to shovel to the corner or just to the end of your property line?

If the kids next door do offer to work for free, you can always treat them to cookies and hot chocolate afterward. Alina Tugend, the Times reporter who interviewed me, told me that one of her neighbors later gave Tugend’s son a gift card to a sporting-goods store in return for his shoveling efforts. That wasn’t necessary, but it was a nice gesture.

Two key lessons. The point is to draw a balance between teaching kids two important lessons: how to earn money and when to be generous. Several winters ago my husband took our son Peter with him to shovel out our neighbors across the street. At the time, Peter wondered why he wasn’t being paid. But the broader lesson of lending a helping hand must have stuck. Last month, when an electrical fire drove another set of neighbors into the street in the middle of the night, Peter saw what happened and went outside to invite them to spend the night with us. “I thought that’s what you would have wanted me to do,” he told us.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Medicare Basics: 11 Things You Need to Know
Medicare

Medicare Basics: 11 Things You Need to Know

There's Medicare Part A, Part B, Part D, medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans and so on. We sort out the confusion about signing up for Medicare --…
September 16, 2020
5 Unfortunate Estate Planning Myths You Probably Believe
estate planning

5 Unfortunate Estate Planning Myths You Probably Believe

These all-too-common misconceptions can steer your estate plans in the wrong direction right from the start. Here’s how to overcome them and tips to b…
September 17, 2020
Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans
taxes

Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans

With the economy in trouble, tax policy takes on added importance in the 2020 presidential election. So, let's take a look at what Joe Biden has said …
September 18, 2020

Recommended

A Step-by-Step Guide to Being an Estate Executor
retirement

A Step-by-Step Guide to Being an Estate Executor

Whether you’re planning ahead for your own heirs or have been asked to serve as an executor of an estate for someone else, it pays to understand what …
September 17, 2020
How to Finance Home Schooling Your Children
family savings

How to Finance Home Schooling Your Children

Kiplinger.com web editor Andrea Browne Taylor joins the Your Money's Worth podcast for a discussion on the financial pros and cons of homeschooling yo…
September 15, 2020
Should You Move Forward with Your Divorce or Wait?
family savings

Should You Move Forward with Your Divorce or Wait?

Despite the tensions brought on by the pandemic, a number of couples are waiting right now, with good reason.
September 10, 2020
18 Things You Should Know Before Shopping at Trader Joe's
Smart Buying

18 Things You Should Know Before Shopping at Trader Joe's

Everything you need to know to save money and shop smarter at the quirky Trader Joe's supermarket chain.
September 4, 2020