Creative ways to earn some cash for college.

Updated: Jan 19


We all know that college is expensive. Many student take out loans to help pay for their tuition, fees, and housing. And many of those students are still paying off college debt 10 years later. So, anything you can do in high school to earn some extra money to put away for college is a GREAT idea. You can always keep a portion of your earnings to help meet your current expenses (like gas for your car, or a new pair of jeans..) but it would be wise to set a goal of saving at least 50% of your earnings for the future. Over the years I have come up with some crazy ways to earn a little extra cash to help pay for my kids dance classes, school trips, or even to support missionaries overseas. But, last year I hit the jackpot with the most unlikely, unusual and unpredictable business ever.

It all started with Superbowl XLIX. I barely paid attention to the game, but at halftime I glanced up to see Katie Perry perform. One song in particular caught my eye because of it's bright colors and fun costumes. During her song "Teenage Dream" there were dancing beach balls, palm trees and sharks...all very "Yo Gabba Gabba" looking. As we all now know, one of the sharks (the left one) missed some of his dance moves, starting a tidal wave of tweets about "left shark" and immediate fame for this costumed character.

The next week some friends and I were planning a retreat where we would have a lip sync contest. I suggested we do "Teenage Dream" complete with all the costumes...to which all (but one) of my friends rolled their eyes. But I was determined. I set out making trees, beach balls and of course, shark costumes. The end result was far better than I ever imagined and my daughter quickly made a split pic to show me just how close the costume was to the real thing.

The lip sync was a hit, but afterwards I felt bad for spending money on the elaborate costumes so my friend and I decided to try and sell them on ebay to get our money back. We listed the sharks at a ridiculously high price, laughing the whole time and never expecting to sell. But, sell they did. Someone bought the two sharks for $300 and even paid us $350 more to overnight them to a big conference in Texas. We decided we were on to something.

I had an idea. My friend was about to leave for a long term assignment as a missionary and I had wanted to support her finanically, but my budget did not allow me a lot of discretionary income. What if I sold shark costumes to support her mission? I recruited some friends and in no time at all we had made and sold $1,000 worth of costumes. I was so excited to hand that money over to my friend and be a part of her work on the other side of the world. I could have never given that much from my normal budget, but being creative allowed me to do more than I expected.

Since things were going so well I just kept selling costumes. In a period of 6 months I sold over 75 costumes and made a profit that could have paid for a semester of college. I sent them to LA, Las Vegas, New York city and many other place in the US and Canada. They showed up at grand openings, ski slope melt down parties, 4th of July parades, Lenovo conventions, college graduations and multiple newspaper and magazines. It was CRAZY!

So, the lesson is this. Do you have an idea? Go for it! Watch the latest trends, see what's popular, market your skills. Maybe you can open an etsy shop selling your art or jewelry, maybe you can teach younger kids a skill you have, or tutor kids in one of your strong subjects. There are thousands of ways to make some extra cash for college, be creative and get started!

In the future I plan to teach an entrepreneurship class for teens. If you want to be the first to hear about it, subscribe to my "Insider emails" and I will add you to the list and send you a significant discount when the course comes out. Send an email to LeAnn@5majorsteps with the subject "subscribe."