5 Money Saving Tips for Teens
Updated: Feb 11
If you have teenagers, you have plenty to worry about, I understand. I’ve been there. As you try to have your last and lasting influence on them as they race toward adulthood, you’re worrying about sex, drugs, alcohol, college and so much more. Add money to the list.
Here are some tips to help you teach your teens to be financially responsible adults:
1. Get a job. Teens have plenty to do these days, with school, sports, music lessons and all the rest. It may seem like a terrible use of time to have your teens work, too, but a job may provide some of the most valuable education they’ll get before they leave home. Having their own money—money you didn’t give them—is good for both parents and their teens for helping them to establish independence.
2. Open a checking account. You may need to cosign, but if your teens don’t have a checking account by age 16, help them get the account opened so they understand how it works. Take time to explain basic concepts like how to keep the register current, how it takes time for checks to clear so money may already be gone, and how to reconcile bank statements at the end of the month.
3. Open a separate savings account. Help your teens understand how to save, by helping them to open an account and put money aside for things they want to buy—this may require you to break your pattern of buying whatever they need.
4. Get a credit card. If your teens learn to manage a checking account successfully, opening a credit card account with a small limit and likely with a parent as a cosigner is a logical next step. It may both serve to give you comfort that your teens have some emergency money with them at all times and that they are learning to be responsible. It is important for you to monitor the usage, to see what your teens are buying and most importantly that they are paying the bill in full each month. Your goal is to teach your kids to be responsible adults, not to help them establish credit. Watch closely to ensure they don’t run up bills they can’t afford.
5. Prepare for college. Encourage your teens to plan and prepare financially for college. Most teens are in reality going to be responsible for some costs in college, even if it is just the money for socializing. Help them to set aside some cash and plan ways to earn money either during the summer or during the school year once they leave home. By working with your teens to open and operate bank and credit accounts and to work a part time job will help them as much as anything else you can do to become productive adults. Once they go away to college, your opportunity to coach and train will be largely gone, but you’ll still be their primary resource for money. Make sure they understand how money works before they’re gone.
How to Get Teens to Do What You Did
Some parents who grew up in a world where they were expected to earn their own spending money as teenagers feel disadvantaged by the experience and then seek to deprive their children of the same privilege in hopes of helping their kids get ahead. What a disservice!
We live in a cruel world where people are universally expected to be productive members of society. Too many kids today finish college without having had any real work experience and don’t know what it’s like to show up to work on time, take direction from a supervisor or to be responsible for accomplishing a task by a deadline
Chances are that you worked as a teenager, babysitting, waiting tables, delivering newspapers, or mowing lawns. Maybe you hated it. But the experiences of work helped to make you the productive part of society that you are today. Encouraging your kids to earn their own spending money teaches them the value of money and how to be good employees.
The key to motivating your kids to take responsibility for earning their way in the world is to limit the amount of spending money you give them. It isn’t a bad idea to give your kids a modest allowance. It’s best if the allowance is tied to doing chores around the house. Even then, be sure to limit the amount of money you give your kids. The whole idea is to leave the kids wanting more money than you give them so they have the desire to earn some money on their own.
It seems unwise to give teenagers exclusive access to a car for which they have not paid. If you choose to give your teens cars, consider requiring them to be responsible for the insurance, gas and maintenance so that they learn responsibility along the way. In most cases, it would be better to encourage them to save for a car or simply use public transportation. If you dare, you can also let them borrow your car—so long as they gas it up for you once in a while.
The more pressure teenagers feel to earn money for their own expenses, the more responsibility you are teaching. Some parents worry that they are depriving their children of valuable study time and that working will lead to lower grades and fewer opportunities in the future. Of course, there needs to be a balance, but a college graduate with straight A’s through high school and college who has never had a job will be at a great disadvantage in the workforce. Similarly, a high school graduate whose grades are not good enough for college will be at a great disadvantage in the workforce. Help your teens find the right balance.
5 Money Saving Tips for the Entire Family
Making ends meet and putting something away for the future each month is a real challenge for virtually all Americans. Our consumption-driven culture makes saving socially difficult—or at least makes spending too easy. So here are some tips to help you and your family get together on family finances:
1. Get the parents on the same page. Sit down with your spouse right away and make sure that you share the same financial goals. You may find out that you’re not on the same page. Together, you can fix that. Remember that your marriage is more important than money and seek a way to compromise so that you can get synchronized, making the messages you send the kids so much more consistent.
2. Have the kids help make decisions about their activities based on the budget. Kids these days are often highly programmed, running from soccer practice to music lessons and from there to Girl Scouts. Sit down with your children and show them how much each activity costs and how much is available for those activities and let them help make the decision about which activities stay and which go.
3. Set a savings goal, measure progress publicly and celebrate milestones. Together as a family, set goals for putting money into savings each month. Monitor progress. When you reach the goal and put the target amount—or more—into savings, celebrate in a fun but budget appropriate way. Everyone in the family has an interest in spending money, but if everyone understands and shares a savings goal, you can shift the excitement from spending to saving.
4. Plan family activities together with the budget in mind. If you have just $20 for an evening’s activity with the family, let the kids help decide how to make that a fun evening. Just a little creativity can make that into a splendid evening picnicking in the park or eating a pizza while watching a DVD.
5. Plan your family vacations together with a budget. Together, you can make choices between camping and staying in motels, amusement parks and beaches, long drives to far away locations and quick trips to neglected nearby sites.
By involving your entire family in your financial goals, you can increase harmony and happiness. A child told he can’t do this or that fun thing because there isn’t enough money, may be frustrated and angry. One who views herself as part of a team trying to save money for college and other goals will be excited about helping to do her part. Ideas for doing fun things on the cheap are likely to be improved by having more people involved in the planning, too. Your kids will think of things you never would and you may just have more fun yourself!