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Making Cents Out Of Summer

Summer, some say, is the sweetest of seasons. And with long days, lots of sunshine, and no school, who would argue otherwise? But if you're like many students, summertime spells more than countless hours spent soaking in the rays or hanging out with friends. Indeed, unless you've found a way to make money grow on trees, your three-month “vacation” likely includes a four-letter word: work.

Holding down a job, of course, doesn't mean the end of summer fun. In fact, a little hard work is a good idea for several reasons. For one, you'll get your first taste of what it's like to be financially independent. You can use the cash you earn to pay off bills or buy things you “need,” like movie tickets, clothing, or a bike. Second, if you play your cards right you might find your work experience to be the perfect stepping stone toward a better job the following summer or even toward a future career.

If you've already bagged the job of your dreams, you're a step ahead of the game. If not, it's time to get in gear. “There is a job out there to fit almost any personality,” says Marshall Brain, author of The Teenager's Guide to the Real World. “The important thing to recognize is you do have options.” In determining just what those options are, it's a good idea to assess your situation and the reasons you need a job in the first place. Do you need to make $3,000 because that's the only way you'll be able to pay all of your expenses? Or is money not an issue? If how much money you pocket is not high on your list of priorities, consider an unpaid internship with a local business or volunteering somewhere like an animal hospital. “You won't make any money,” says Brain, “but the experience can be invaluable.”

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