Editor’s note: This post by Little House from Little House in the Valley is part of the Yakezie blog-swap. You can read my post on Little House in the Valley.

By 14, I’d become the neighborhood babysitter, making $5 an hour I’d watch up to three children per household.  My reputation became so well-known, the community church hired me to take over their daycare center before the age of fifteen. The money was flowing in and I wasn’t even old enough to drive yet.

It was my first real experience earning extra money. Having financially savvy parents, they encouraged me to open a savings account to benefit from the 8% interest rate of the time. Though I had some inclination to save money, the cash I was earning “Under the Table” was burning a hole in my pocket- almost quite literally.

Let me just say that I quickly learned that cold, hard cash and I don’t really mix well. It’s much too easy to lose, spend, or part with rather than a check that has to be deposited into an account.

One night, after getting a ride home from the church nursery with a neighbor, I was enjoying the summer night air, hanging with a friend on the lawn. I had placed my night’s cash salary in a belt loop since I was wearing an outfit that didn’t have pockets and I was still too young to have caught onto carrying around a purse (this was the ’80’s when purses weren’t nearly as popular for young folks as they are today!) By the time I reached my house, the cash was gone! It had fallen out somewhere between the neighbor’s house and my own. Needless to say, it was too dark to find it and I was too embarrassed to ask the neighbors if they had found it in their car or on their lawn.

Lesson learned: Store cash in a safe place where it won’t get lost!

My nightly routine often involved diapers changed, children fed, and then off to bed they went. The extra income kept flowing in; I was lucky that our neighborhood was filled with young couples and their young children. I began to feel entitled to spending a portion of it on clothing. As a teenager, new clothing was incredibly exciting! What else was I going to spend my money on?

Each month I’d budget out a portion on clothes that I’d spend at an inexpensive chain store. My closets soon became filled with cheap clothing that would only last a few wash-cycles, which meant I needed to purchase more clothing!

Needless to say, I was spending too much of my hard-earned cash from changing nappies on items that weren’t made to last.

Lesson learned: Don’t let extra cash burn a hole in your pocket. Spend your money wisely!

As I became more knowledgeable about saving money from my babysitting gigs, my savings account grew. By the time I was ready to move out of my parents house I had enough money saved for a rent deposit, a used car, and still some left over for emergencies.

Working multiple jobs, including babysitting, serving coffee, and twirling pizza dough, allowed me to become financially independent at a young age and that was the most important lesson learned: hard work and responsibility equated to me being able to choose my own path in life and set the stage for a solid financial future.

Do you remember your first money-making experience? How did that shape your financial future?