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

by Travis Pizel · 65 comments

lawn mower

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?
summer chores

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?

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current AT&T DSL and U-VERSE promotion codes and promos and see if you can save more money every month from now on.

{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Norman sylvestre says:

    We are an elderly couple living in the villages in Florida. I am at a point in life that I can no longer keep up with the yard work. I’m looking to hire a teenager for four hours a week on weekends.

  • Mckayden Perkins says:

    If get 20$ a week for mowing the lawn. I’m 13, pretty good money for me if you think about it.

  • Kathy says:

    Last year, I paid my nephew $25 twice a week for mowing my lawn. He is 19 and in college. His mother thinks that I should be paying him more because professionals charge $60. She wants me to pay him $40 each time he cuts the grass. Any opinions?

    • David @ says:

      You were paying him below market rate and now he’s figured out that he can get more. You can say no but so can he. Your sister already asked you to pay more. Do you rather mow the lawn yourself or pay $60 for professionals to come? It’s really up to you but I would gladly pay if I rather have someone else do it because $40 is still much cheaper than $60 all else being equal.

  • Elise Hands says:

    My parents payed me $30 to mow, edge, and sweep up afterwards. Our yard is about 1.7 acres.

    • Paul V says:

      I’m 16, I average about 5 hrs a week maintaing a 1,500 sq ft lawn (Yes, I do time myself). Admittedly, I’m actually a lawn nut who loves preforming lawn care, and subsequently mows the lawn several times a week. Though last year I did help my cousin set up a small, neighborhood lawn care business and had him break various lawn care tasks into chunks. The customer could choose to have their lawn mowed for $15 and/or have their lawn edged for another $5. Keep in mind this is a small neighborhood with small lawns. He uses a light duty B&S gas mower which can mow a little over 2 houses laws, front and back, on a full tank and uses as electric Ryobi trimmer to edge. He does it on the weekends and walks to each house. He reimburses his dad for gas who also takes car of the mower, oil changes, valve cleaning, etc. So far he’s made a couple hundred dollars and we joke that he’s got more cash than the rest of the family.

  • Paul says:

    I’d pay him per mow with reasonable attempts by you and him to figure out when it needs it. Per week will encourage him to cut corners.

    For the actual rate, I’d go some discount – maybe as much as 50% – from the market rate. Then maybe you top that up with a full or partial match from you to a Custodial Roth IRA for him?

  • DNN says:

    Pay him enough so his mind stays off of women!

  • DNN says:

    Be nice and give them $20 in $ gUaP $ so they can start “saving money to pay for college.”

  • Fuzzybudget says:

    Regarding the fees that services charge, they have overhead like gas, mower, storage. Your son doesn’t. It’s presumably your gas and your mower; you’re only paying him for labor. Don’t feel like you have to pay him $25. I have someone mow the part of my yard I could no longer handle (I was still doing the front – they did the back) It’s half an hour job – I realized one day I was paying him $36/hr. Since I’m using my gas and my mower, I feel like I’m over paying him. (I still did the trimming) I would also consider the difficulty factor. Is your yard hilly? Is it difficult to maneuver the mower? How strong is he? Is your yard just flat? Is the mower self-propelled? The easier the job, the lower the salary.

  • Kevin says:

    In the past I thought my teenager should do it for the family and not get paid, as I did growing up.
    But I had a hard time in the years past getting my son to mow without complaining.
    So this year I made an incentive contract with him.
    I pay him $1 for the first mow, $2 the second time, $3 the 3rd and so on.
    So the 25th mow of the season he will get $25.
    If he mows 25 weeks he will make $325 for the season. It takes about an hour to mow. So he will end up making about $13 an hour.
    He is excited to mow every week. He is 13 years old.

    • Kevin says:

      Its only about 10,000 sq feet

      • Amy says:

        This is genius. I’m going to see what else I can apply it to. My son is only 5 and we have a 10×7 strip of grass here in the desert that he can mow with a push mower. I would’ve preferred more concrete and potted plants.

  • Megan says:

    I am 15 and my parents pay me $100 to do the front of my house and the back is bigger so I get $175.

  • Corey palumbo says:

    I am 11 and I do a 17 acres and charge 60 an hour

  • lawn service dallas says:

    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. πŸ™‚

    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

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      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. πŸ˜‰

  • 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?

    • Travis @enemyofdebt says:

      I have a big yard….if I were to pay a service to mow and trim, and you’re using your own equipment, I’d be willing to pay $50 a shot. Good luck to you!

  • 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.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I really like how you’ve essentially turned it into a business for your son, Jarad – thanks for sharing!

  • Jason Glen Arrington says:

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

    • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

      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!

  • Alex @ Credit Card XPO says:

    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.

  • Property Marbella says:

    $ 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.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Well, he can’t really do it whenever he wants…..I determine when I want it done, and I expect him to pretty much jump on it immediately. πŸ™‚

  • 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.

    • David @ says:

      Can you actually skip all the taxes if you specifically call this compensation for work done? Any tax experts here?

      • Fuzzybudget says:

        It’s a chore. I’d consider any payment to my kids to be an allowance. It’s not a business and he’s not an empl0yee.

        • Reed says:

          Ok I’m sorry, but that has to be one of the most “Karen” things I’ve seen on this thread. I’ve seen a few, but this my not-so-good friend, is just plain stupid. This kid HAS started a business, and he isn’t just the employee, he’s the boss.

  • 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 @ 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?

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Yeah, no kidding, David… jaw dropped when I was quoted that amount. If I would pay that amount (I wouldn’t ever do so), lawn maintenance would be EXPENSIVE!

  • 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.


    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      Yep, he’ll be using my mower and gas, Steve. I’d love if he would look for and find additional mowing jobs – but most of my neighbors are more than happy with mowing their own yard. πŸ™‚

  • 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.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      That was my thought as well, Amy – the more you work, the more you get paid! The interesting thing is, by the hour is his LEAST favorite idea!

      • David @ says:

        Why not? As an employee who cannot be fired, I’d be happiest with a “by the hour” compensation (if you know what I mean *wink*wink*).

  • 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 @ 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.

      • Travis @debtchronicles says:

        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 @ 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?

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      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.

    • David @ says:

      Travis’ son wouldn’t have to pay for the upkeep of the lawn mower, as well as electricity/gas that powers the unit.

      I don’t want to pin a number though because I don’t want Travis’ son coming after me for anchoring the price point πŸ™‚

      • Travis @debtchronicles says:

        LOL…..if you lowballed the number you’d probably have a teenager uprising in your front yard, David.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      If we did a “per service” amount, I believe we’d go with $25 per service. That’s less than half of a professional service, but still a good rate for a 15 year old.

  • John @ Wise Dollar says:

    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 @ 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.

    • Travis @debtchronicles says:

      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. πŸ™‚

    • Ann says:

      Can you give me an idea of how big the lawns are at $20-$25 or how long is takes to do the job?

Leave a Comment