How Much Should I Pay My Teenager to Mow the Lawn?

by Travis Pizel · 43 comments

Warm weather, combined with recent rain, finally has my lawn green and growing. I’ve dropped my first application of fertilizer, pulled my lawn mower from the shed, and generally gotten ready for another season of lawn care. Soon enough, my lawn will need to be mowed regularly.

I love being outside and mowing the lawn, but I’m a busy guy — and the two hours it takes to cut the grass and trim around the house is sometimes hard to find.

That being said, I have a teenage son who is looking to earn some extra money. He’d like to get a part-time job, but getting one at age 15 is difficult, because most business require applicants to be at least 16.

Mowing the lawn would be a perfect way for me to save some time, and for him to earn some money. But here’s the question:

How much should I pay him to mow my lawn?

My three options:

  1. Hourly wage: The Minnesota legislature just voted to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, which I’d round up to $10 per hour just to keep the numbers even. I’d have him track his hours, then pay him each week like a real job.
  2. Per-service: I called a few lawn services in my area, and the most common quote I received was around $60 per service. I had no idea it would cost so much to have someone else take care of my lawn! I’m certainly not paying my son that much, but I’d be willing to pay him $25 per service.
  3. Per-week: Finally, I could pay him a flat rate of $30 per week to take care of the lawn (regardless of how many times he’d have to mow).

Each of these options has their advantages and disadvantages. The per-week method is best for me, because there are times when he may have to mow more than once per week. The per-service is best for him from a money-making standpoint, because he could earn the most. But the hourly wage is the most fair for both of us — and has the most financial learning potential for him in the near future.

All of these behaviors would accomplish both goals: a well-kept lawn and some extra money for my son. Plus, there are the extra bonuses of teaching him some valuable lessons about responsibility, work ethic, and finances.

What would you do in this situation? How much would you pay your child to do yard work?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • My son lawns my yard no question, but sometimes a good reward goes a long way, it tells them you appreciate them doing household chores.

  • EAR_ONS says:

    Wow! young people actually mowing the lawn. Not here in northern California.

  • Joan Jasper says:

    My 45 year old mentally challenged neighbor mows my lawn. He really doesn’t do a very good job. He doesn’t completely rake up cut grass and does a poor job of trimming. Every time I point out how poorly his job is, he argues with me and goes on about how I should be paying him as much as regular guys who do lawn service get paid. I always point out that he doesn’t have a business license, no insurance and he has no certificates showing he knows anything about lawn care. I pay him $25 per mow usually every seven to ten days depending on weather. I have a small to medium sized lawn, about 2500 to 3000 square feet. He has about six other customers. He prefers to get paid by cash. It takes him one hour to one and a half hours to mow it. He has stated that my yard is easy to mow and that I’m his best customer (because I pay him on time.)
    I’d like to keep him on. Professionals cost more, although, I found one that will charge including tax $29. I must admit, it would be comforting to know that they are professional and are insured, but I know his family and I will feel bad if I have to discontinue his services.
    Any suggestions on how to deal with him and get him to do a better job?

    Hoping for a drought here in Iowa–J.J.

  • Chris Gossage says:

    I often hear people make fun of guys that mow for a living. I have also seen guys clear 100k mowing. It is the greatest summer job a young man can get. 🙂

    Good luck

  • Chris Gossage says:

    I would pay them $30 just to teach them the value of hard work. It depends what your budget is and your personal situation. I would make it enough that your child wants to mow the yard. Then I would suggest that he ask the neighbors. Once he has ten yards I would charge him rent…hahaha WIN/WiN

    • We actually have a couple of neighbors that DO pay a service….I might just have him inquire with them if they’d be willing to have him do it instead….and see if he’d be able to beat their price. 😉

  • Tanner cromer says:

    I was considering makeing a lawn mowing buisness w/ 2 friends and I starting this spring.. We would be using our mowers and trimmers and would now the grass trim and pull weeds, if needed.. I was wondering how much would you pay us if we did all of that to your yard?

  • Jarad says:

    My 13 year old son gets no allowance and mows our yard as a contribution to the family. Besides our lawn he regularly mows anywhere from 4-6 lawns. His normal fee for mow and trim for a half acre yard is $25. I give him use of the family push lawnmower and trimmer, he pays for the gas, oil changes and trimmer line. When our equipment will need to be upgraded and he’ll pay half out of his profit. The arrangement works well for us and he pulls in plenty of cash for his age.

    He’ll also shovel 3-4 drives by hand per snow ($15 a pop), but has decided that raking leaves by hand isn’t worth the money gained per hour it takes.

  • I think the second plan suits you well. That sounds much more financially upright for you with unlimited mow for flat 30$ per week.

    • That sounds more like the last option, Jason….but on the surface that would seem like the most economical from my standpoint. However, as the summer as gone on, we’ve never needed to mow the lawn more than once in a week!

  • I live in NY and I pay my landscaper $18 per cut once a week. It takes them about 30 minutes. If I hired my son to do this, it would probably take him an hour so I’d pay him the $20.

  • $ 20 is enough, he has no travel costs, he can do it when he wants, he does not pay tax, and you stand on petrol and maintenance of the machine.

  • fredjohnson says:

    I live in MN also. Mpls burbs. Pay him no more than $22 for each mowing. It’s more than enough because he doesn’t have to pay FICA tax since he’s your child under 16. He probably won’t owe income tax on it either so it’s all take home pay, equivalent to someone else making around $35 an hour.

  • James says:

    Pay him less than minimum wage – this way he will learn that working for your money isn’t the best long term strategy, rather teach him to build passive income, start business and invest.

  • David Ning says:

    Wow $60 a pop?!?!?

    I remember mowing the lawn for $5 when I was young. With $100+ a month for mowing and maybe another couple bucks a month per square feet of grass on extra water, isn’t a lawn costing you a couple hundred bucks a month?

  • Steve says:

    Will he be using your law mower and your gas? If so, I think the hourly rate works.
    In doing so he may be able to work out a deal by using (or renting )your lawn mower to maybe do a few neilbours ($500-$600). I believe the service rate is usually someone who comes in with his own tools and gas. Either way it’s a good start. He may enjoy it and start his own summer business.

    Cheers

  • Amy says:

    I would go with the hourly rate, which seems most fair to both of you. Also, an other jobs he’s likely to get at his age will pay him hourly, so it gets him into that mindset.

  • RustyGee says:

    I totally agree with you to NOT pay your son the same as a professional lawn service because they have more of an overhead than your son. Determine how long it takes you to take care of your lawn and pay the $10 per hour as a per job rate.
    You did not say if he receives an allowance. If he does, I would pay him an extra amount but not the per job rate as above and let him know that you have raised his allowance for the additional work. You might have a better opportunity to get more work out of him with additional responsibilities when the lawn can no longer be taken care of, like get some painting done or cleaning the garage or attic of all that stuff you want to throw away.
    I’m interested in finding out you decision and the effect it had on him. Come back to this page and provide an answer. Thanks

    • David Ning says:

      Now that you brought up the allowance issue, I don’t know if asking your own son to mow the lawn for a fee is a good idea. The work for $$$ just isn’t clear cut enough when you work for your own dad. What does Travis say when his son just stops mowing the lawn and say he needs to study? Does he automatically get a pass whenever he doesn’t’ need cash? I vote for hiring outside help and then telling his son to mow other people’s lawns. Maybe swap with another neighbor so the kids are mowing each other’s house. At least there’s some more accountability there.

      • My son does get an allowance…and it’s a flat rate for a specific set of responsibilities. Mowing the lawn is an additional responsibility in which we are making an additional contract. As far as if he doesn’t want to earn money for a specific mow, or if he thinks he’s too busy – that’s not allowed in our “contract.” If he’s mowing my lawn, it’s a job – when it needs mowing, he’d better figure out how to make the time to get it done!

  • Jeffre Kelly says:

    I never got paid for mowing my parents lawn. My dad told me no one paid him to mow it before I got old enough to do it so why should he pay me. I did however start mowing the neighbors lawn on either side and one neighbor on the other side of that. Those lawns I was paid 30 bucks to mow and edge. Since all the yards were close together I always mowed the fronts at the same time. Making one long pass between all 4 yards then turning around and going back again.

    • David Ning says:

      Your story gives me an interesting idea. How about Travis pay his son nothing but if he mows the lawn + at least one neighbor’s lawn, then he’ll give him a 20% bonus on whatever he gets paid?

    • I certainly respect your opinion, Jeffre…and I figured someone would express such a perspective. My logic is, while I don’t have to, I think this is a great opportunity to have him learn the concept of hard work = money earned,

  • Michelle says:

    I think $20 to $25 is fair, especially since he doesn’t have to pay for the cost to travel to your home. We pay $28 for our lawn guy, but he lives next door so I think that’s why he cut us a good deal.

  • I love being outside, but I hate mowing the lawn for some reason. I love doing other types of yard work, but never have been a fan of mowing. That said, I know there are a number of teenagers in our neighborhood that mow lawns and most of them do it on a per service basis of around $20-25. I think either that or the per week would be the one I’d go with.

    • David Ning says:

      I don’t know about the per week deal John. I don’t know how Travis and his son is like, but I suspect my son and I would be bickering about how often he needs to be out there mowing the lawn if we struck a “whenever it’s needed” deal.

    • If we would go with the “per week” method, there would be the understanding that I dictate when the lawn gets mowed. That being said, the more I think about it, the “per week” method is my least favorite….especially given that when we get into the heat of the summer we may not need our lawn mowed for a week – and I don’t want to pay for service I’m not getting. 🙂

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