Egg Money


My grandmother kept hens.

I sell on Etsy.

Two women, separated by years and changing times, earning “egg money.”

The concept of “egg money”* (or butter-and-egg money) derives from farm life, where the woman of the farm typically took care of the chickens. Any money she made from selling the eggs was hers, to use as she wished.

Egg money could be set aside for emergencies or could be used for something a woman wanted but didn’t need. A little luxury, a special treat for a child, a gift for one’s husband that wasn’t purchased with “his” money.

In a lot of ways, egg money would seem to be an outdated concept. Like so many women, I no longer live on a farm, don’t raise chickens, had my own career and made a good salary of my own, so why would I still think in these terms?

I don’t know but I do! When I consider my motivation to keep going with my 5-year-old shop on Etsy, selling vintage linens and handmade chocolates, I always think in terms of egg money. Around here, we call it Etsy money.

When I began selling, it was not with the idea of making money. I had a huge collection of vintage linens, almost embarrassing in its scope, and I wanted to lighten that load while finding good homes for the pretty things.

Similarly, I had taken up candy making as a hobby and was enjoying trying all kinds of concoctions but I couldn’t justify doing it just for my husband and me.

Both endeavors also gave me focus and purpose in my new retirement, when I was trying to figure how to focus my energy and use my time with purpose.

So, I didn’t start out to make money but . . . along the way, I’ve made quite a lot of money, much more than I would ever have expected.

My husband and I have kept this money separate from the “real” money of the household, our savings and retirement incomes.

And I think we’ve treated it exactly as egg money has traditionally been used. For fun, for the frivolous, for pet projects.

As a couple, we’ve used Etsy money to fund our travel, to Boston, to Maine, to Ireland, to Scotland. It is sending us to an upcoming weaving workshop. When a friend’s cat needed thousands of dollars of emergency vet care, Etsy money was used to make the donation to her GoFundMe account.

We could’ve done all of these things with “real” money but we might have hesitated more and wondered if it was practical. We might’ve worried about unpredictable emergencies to come and decided to forego our desire to spend in favor of frugality.

Having the Etsy money is wonderfully liberating. It really feels like free money, even though I’ve done real work to earn it. It’s money I enjoy spending, instead of feeling a little guilty, a little profligate, a little reckless.

And I know I’m not alone. One friend teaches piano lessons and pulls out that cash when we go out to dinner. Another works as a substitute librarian and the money is designated for fabric purchases. Many of the women I know, it seems, although they had careers and have retirement incomes, also relish the guilt-free freedom provided by egg money.

Do you know this freedom? Was there a source of egg money in your foremother’s lives? Is there in yours?

* “Egg money” is different than “pin money.” Women earned egg money but pin money was an allowance given by the husband, intended for a women to use for personal needs.


52 thoughts on “Egg Money

    • Selling on Etsy can be hard work! I make sure to work on it regularly–it’s on my daily to-do list–and I can get quite frantic during “candy season.” On the other hand, it’s much more flexible than having a bricks and mortar store!

  1. I know women who also do quite well on eBay, in addition to Etsy. In my household egg money is called mad money, which gives some idea of its uses. Actually, the only stricture on mad money’s use is that it not be practical. While Virginia Wolfe wanted a room of her own, my mother’s generation of women wanted a bank account of their own. For my mother, freedom was not having to justify a purchase. Come to think of it, I feel the same way.

  2. We used to have chickens/dairy cows but that was when the fam was young and it all went in together. Now, even though we have separate accounts, there are no labels and “my” money/”his” money kinda flows between the 2 (with electronic banking this may happen a lot in the course of the days!!!! LOL!!!).

  3. My mom had her “mad money” but much like you I work a full time job currently with such limited free time. I love the idea of having a passion that brings in income that can fund special treats. I think keeping it separate and treating it like that little pot of gold is wonderful. So happy you have found such rewarding ways to fund your dreams in retirement! Truly so inspirational!

    • It’ll be interesting to see what you do for your own pot of gold, once you retire. I think you could easily sell your drawings and paintings, if you found the appropriate venue for them–SO much talent!

  4. When I first retired I sold refurbished vintage Singer sewing machines along with their various attachments, and a few vintage linens on ebay. Now that we’ve moved across the country and the pickings aren’t very good at local yard sales I just quilt for myself and for our new church quilt ministry – no egg money any more, just spirit food!

    • Spirit food brings its own rewards, I’m sure! Are you no longer in WNY? I lived in Buffalo for years and found great pickings in that part of the country.

  5. Brava! How often do you hear people doing what they love because they love it and then that passion winds up providing unexpected income. A friend of mine has done the same with Etsy based on her love of antiques. I wish I had a passion like that.

  6. My parents ran pubs in England – I always lived above the shop.My mum would keep the cash she made on sandwiches, most likely hidden from the tax man. The cash was stuffed in pillows. When I turned 21 she said ‘ Well, lets see how much we have for a party”. Soon her bedroom was awash with pound notes and feathers.
    That’s what she used her ‘pin money’ for.

  7. My grandmother in the 30’s and 40’s used to dress-make or repair clothes for friends and family. What very little money she got for this (and there wasn’t much to be had then) was spent on cake for tea!

  8. Another advantage of the interwebby age! I have my ‘hobby money’. I sell [mostly light catchers currently] and that allows me to purchase more bits to make more light catchers. It keeps me out of trouble 🙂

    • And, heavens knows, we need to keep you out of trouble! 😉 The internet has really changed the world of buying and selling–it’s both easier and more complicated.

  9. Kerry, I know you’ve done a lot of real work related to your Etsy shop. Making chocolates and ironing are enjoyable for you…thank goodness. Buf a lot more goes into those listings. And I’m glad I like researching antiques.

    • Yes, you of all the people who visit here, know how much work Etsy can be. I’d love to see some statistics from Etsy for how many shops are opened and abandoned within a few months, when the seller figures out that it isn’t easy money! But, as you say, you and I enjoy the kind of work we’re doing so we’re willing to keep it up!

  10. I like the idea of egg money and the difference between that and pin money. Don’t have either currently, but when I retire, there may be some egg money in the offing. I think it’s pretty amazing all you’ve funded–and you were so wise to keep it separate to fund meaningful things.

    • I like the difference between egg and pin money a lot–and can quite understand why a women might accept pin money but prefer egg! For 21st-century women with careers, I think the making of egg money has to wait until retirement. while we’re working full-time we have to focus on that, paying the bills and taking care of necessities.

  11. How I enjoy your blog Kerry! Just read up and my toes are curling with cozyness. Read your last post with much interest. I have been asked several times to start ‘an Etsy” so far I am hesitant. I do sell my work on request and enjoy that. A few years ago I had a little bussiness making Walldorf dolls for a special toy store. It was a succes and too many orders killed my joy in making them. Same happened with knitting ( my yoga!!!) I think the trick is making it manageable. More thoughts needed…xo Johanna
    Ps awesome the fund a cat in need!!

    • I missed you! It’s great to have you back, Johanna–you’re always so supportive. I hope you’ll be blogging again soon, too. I am sure you could make a great success of an Etsy shop but you’re smart to question whether it’s what you really want. I know that, for me, a lot of the fun has gone out of the candy-making–it’s a good thing that I have to stop in the summer when the weather gets warm. It gives me a break so, up to this point, I am glad to get back to it. As with everything, it’s all about balance!

  12. My grandma had hens,loved to help her gather the eggs,feed and water them. She had egg money.😊I still love having hens around. I never sold to many eggs always like to share with friends and family. May you have many more years of Etsy and egg money for fun!

    • Thanks, Deb! It’s funny–I didn’t enjoy my experiences with hens as a kid. I had to go collect the eggs and I hated reaching under that feathery belly to get them. I am amazed how many people keep hens nowadays–it’s kind of trendy, i think!

  13. I don’t have extra time to make stock for Etsy right now as I’m not retired yet and have a reasonably demanding full time job. My variant of egg money or pin money, as I’ve also heard it called, is the money gleaned from selling no longer wanted items on eBay. I permit myself to make purchases from charity shops but otherwise am trying to hold back on shopping.

    • I totally understand–all of my focus on extra money has come since I retired. I got to make so few things when i was working and I wanted to keep them all! I should do more on eBay–I have lots of stuff I could unload. It’s a great source of a little extra $$!

  14. Wonderful post ,Kerry….I love the old ‘home economics’ that were once so common. Isn’t it great to put away bits of an earning…from etsy or from eggs….and to use it just as you would like. I bet there are tons of great stories about what farm women would use their egg money for….would love to read the list!

    • That would be a wonderful list to have–if we could get the women to honest and really say! Thinking back to my grandmothers, though, I suspect a lot of the egg money was used on other people, to make them happy . . .

  15. My mom worked for real money that really fed and clothed us, so I didn’t grow up with the egg money concept. When either Jim or I has some small windfall, though, we talk about it as if it were “free,” or mad money, or exceptional in some way. We laugh over possible plans for it, what we could buy or where we could go. In truth, though, our brains just don’t work that way, keeping it separate, and we use it (or not) just as we would any other dollar.

    I’m interested in your etsy shop. If you don’t mind, I’ll send you an email with some questions. Thanks for the interesting post.

  16. I don’t know about my foremothers, but I do know my mother kept us fed and clothed with piano lesson money. Once we were grown it got her things she needed that the budget couldn’t handle. Eventually I am pleased to say that she got to a place economically where she too could use it for fun things.

    I use my etsy money and money from other sales for more yarn at this point. Haven’t earned enough for a trip but I hope to eventually! If I can just stop spending it on yarn. 😀

  17. I learned something new–Until I read this post I didn’t know the difference between egg money and pin money. It’s interesting to think about the role that both played in the lives of the women who came before us.

  18. I did not know the difference between “pin” and “egg” money, so thank you for educating me.
    How incredible satisfying! The essence of working hard and doing what YOU want to do with the money. Good for you!

  19. For a year, I decided to not spend any $5 bills. They all went into an old cigar box, and were earmarked as mad money. I would take some of it to craft shows so I didn’t have to feel any guilt if I decided to splurge on a beautiful piece that wanted to come home with me.

  20. My “Etsy Money” is my income, but my mom runs a shop and uses her earnings for fun things as well.
    And my niece gets the “egg money” job. She goes and gets the eggs each morning and sells them to family and friends. She then gets to buy new toys with her egg money 🙂 Still a thing all these years later!

  21. I needed some eggs to throw at the person who stole my laptop and then deleted my blog 😦 Well I have licked my wounds and now I am backed. I so missed your blog!!!

    • And I so missed you! I wondered what had happened to you–I’m awfully glad you aren’t ill or in the middle of of something terrible . . . not that what happened wasn’t terrible but I envisioned catastrophe. I’m glad you are putting things behind you but, geez, who would do such a thing?!

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