My Kid Pays Her Cell Phone Bill Selling On eBay

In a recent edition of the Scouting Hot Finds Newsletter I mentioned how I was trying to teach my 14 year old daughter how to fish. Actually I think the Chinese proverb reads, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime“. In plain speak I set up an eBay account for my teenage daughter so that she could sell Scouting memorabilia on eBay and pay her bills. Another collector thought this was a novel idea and wanted to know the nuts and bolts of how we are making it work. Apparently he also has a teenager in the house!


First off I’m glad to share exactly how we are doing this but I can’t promise there isn’t a better way. This was the result of about 2 years of going back and forth about money and working and I won’t say it’s smooth sailing even now but here is the recipe.


First the very short backstory. Like all kids in middle school these days our daughter Sophia was begging for a cell phone. However, we were not keen on this and put up a firewall that she would have to work and earn enough money to pay her approximately $50 data bill each month. Our proposal was that she work for me scanning, sorting, pulling orders etcetera since at the time my office was in the basement of the house we were renting. Eventually she got up to earning $8 per hour with lots of fits and starts. I think during the first two years she went through 3 phone numbers because she would not have enough money and would let her plan deactivate. Maybe she was testing us or maybe (more likely) she was not responsible enough to maintain a weekly schedule so that she could consistently earn some money.


I should add that we are NOT on a shared family plan for cell phones which would be a barrier if you were trying to copy this model. We use Staight Talk which allows each of us to have a stand alone service plan. Along with being pretty cheap it meant that if she dropped the ball it was going to mean her service didn’t get renewed each month.


The other breakthrough for this system was finding Bluebird by American Express. The only way we could hold her responsible for the data bill was if it came out of her own prepaid debit card. After doing some research I can say we have been VERY happy with Bluebird. She has her own debit card that is tied to my parent account. So I can load her card up with $ when she works and when the balance reaches $0 that’s it. She has the Bluebird app on her phone and can monitor the balance. So in this way instead of her asking us to pay for things and keeping some sorta parent accounting of the unpaid “loans” we can just say well do you have money on your Bluebird? No? Well I guess you need to do some work!


Over the summer I was listening to a podcast about entrepreneurship and got the idea to change the model. I was tired of asking Sophia when she was going to work (on the clock for dad) and getting push back about summer and free time and blah blah blah. So I came home one day with a Scout collection that I had purchased and changed the rules of the deal. I told her okay no more working for dad, now you are going to work for yourself. I’ll give you the tools to earn as much money as you want but you will have to do 100% of the work.


About a year ago I toyed with the idea of setting up an eBay account that was separate from my main account. Turns out eBay has no problem with this (I thought they didn’t like this back in the day). I did use a different email address of course but otherwise was transparent. The account started off only allowing me to sell like 10 items per month so I never really got if off the ground like I wanted. However, recently I called eBay up and verified that indeed I was also the owner of an account that is 20 years old with a 10 million dollar monthly limit and they agreed to give the new account some breathing room.


The other trick to this was PayPal. I called them up and found out that indeed you can have two PayPal accounts off of your SSN. Of course that means any sales from either account go on the same IRS tax form but everything is above board on that end. So armed with a 2nd eBay account and PayPal I had the necessary tools to let her run with this idea.


Here was the simple math that I proposed to my daughter. 50/50 You do all the work and you keep 1/2 of everything that sells. I will provide all the inventory, pay the fees, taxes, shipping supplies etc. The mix of stuff I’ve given her has been all from that initial collection. Starting with some camp patches she then listed CSPs and now is moving on to neckerchiefs. Her best sale so far was a Tsali Lodge 134 P1 that sold for $64. She was pretty happy about that one.


So two months in how is it going? Well not as well as I had hoped. She is still only determined to work the bare minimum to get by. Sometimes an entire week has gone by and she has not added a single item to the account. She has made sure the shipping has not lagged but getting her to spend a few hours on a weekend listing is still an argument. My adjustment was instead of always letting her know where she is on the balance sheet I’ve decided to do a monthly reconciliation report. So far she owes me money from last month! So maybe its the teenager or maybe its the parent but there is no simple way that I have found to motivate your kid. Wish me luck and good luck to anyone that wants to come up with a version of this plan for their own child.

Click To See How Her eBay Sales Are Going






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