5 Things Teens Should Do with Their Money

5 things teens should do with their moneyMy nine-year-old never spends a dime.

If we go out, he leaves his money at home.

Consequently, if he sees something he wants, he weasels the funds out of daddy.

When confronted, he always responds with, “I’m saving it, Daddy.”

Imagine my chagrin when I overheard this conversation.

Daddy: I need a job done. I’ll pay you a dollar.

Nine-year-old: Okay, sure.

Daddy: There’s one stipulation.

Nine-year-old: What’s that?

Daddy: You have to promise you’ll spend the dollar.

I share this cute story to say that everyone’s approach to what they do with their money needs a balance. And nothing helps that balanced approach more than responsibility.

The nine-year-old doesn’t have a regular income, so we haven’t required him to meet any financial responsibilities. But our teens are a different story, they need a job with regular income.

1. Pay room and board.

Once our teens have a regular job, we require them to help out with the home expenses. Doing so teaches them responsibility. This can be different for different kids. One son might voluntarily stop by the store and pick up whatever he notices is missing from the pantry. On payday, he may come home with a couple bags of groceries. That boy doesn’t need a parent sticking out a hand asking for room and board money. However, another child might need to be reminded what to do with her paycheck each week. She might rather shop till she drops – for trifles – than help daddy pay the electric bill. How a family implements this custom would depend a lot on the family’s dynamics and the temperament of the teens involved.

2. Pay their own expenses.

We do not pay for our children’s driver’s education courses, buy them cars, put gas in them, or pay for the insurance. As parents, we believe that driving is a privilege that must be earned. The same goes for cell phones. Our teenagers pay their own vehicle and phone expenses. This practice, too, teaches them responsibility.

3. Save.

I have always required my teenagers to put 50 percent of their paychecks into a long-term savings account. This money is set aside for one of three things: college expenses, to purchase a home or piece of property, or to start a business. This money is not for buying a vehicle, Christmas gifts, new clothes, or anything else. It is for their future.

4. Invest.

Since my husband taught the boys how to scrap metal over 20 years ago, all our kids have found different ways to make an income. Sometimes, these entrepreneurial ventures require a bit of start-up capital. When the oldest was 14, he worked dipping ice cream for a full summer to pay for his first anvil. After finishing his blacksmith apprenticeship program, that anvil earned him back the money many times over when he sold his hand-forged items in local gift shops.

5. Give.

Teenagers have a lot of needs. As we’ve already discussed, they need to keep their gas tanks full, cell phones connected, and save money for their education. When you’re working a minimum-wage job, there’s not a lot left over — so the temptation is to spend it on oneself. After all, everyone else is wearing batik scarves or Macbeth footwear. But the scripture teaches that God loves a cheerful giver. Hopefully, we’ve instilled the concept of giving in our children long before their teen years so that this is not such a heart-wrenching issue. Besides giving to the local church, our kids have helped to sponsor children through Compassion, supported their older brother on the mission field, or just generously given whenever a need was made known.

Every family is different. These principles have worked for our family, but I’m sure that you could come up with five different ways you would like to see your teenager spending their money.

I’m open to discussion, so why not share in the comments!

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  1. Aaron

    Thanks for the post Carol. Having a teenager of my own – I appreciate what you are doing with yours and think its very important to be teaching them responsibility like this. It does seem however, that teens are having a more difficult time finding jobs. I hope that changes soon- but I know this generation is a bit more unemployed than previous ones.

  2. Carol J. Alexander

    Aaron, I can believe it is more difficult out there now, but my kids have never faced that. The older two boys just asked contractors to be given a chance, and were. In fact, the oldest worked for the same building contractor from the age of 15 until he was married. He learned a great deal from that job. Sometimes you have to think outside the box. 🙂

  3. Jake Erickson

    I agree with all of your points besides paying for room and board. I completely agree that a teenager needs to learn how to spend, save, and give, but I don’t think room and board should be their responsibility. I know you’re teaching them how to be responsible, but a kid has plenty of time ahead of them to be “responsible” and pay for their own housing. This is all coming from a married guy with no children yet, so take it for what it’s worth.

  4. Randy A. Tudy

    I agree with you. I teach my students to do the same especially on savings. Surprisingly, even students who complain having little allowance (most of the times not enough) are still able to save after I taught them. Of course, it comes with a price whoever saves the most. It’s good to educate the young. They are more receptive and learn fast.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thanks for sharing, Randy. As adults aren’t we, too, prone to complain our “allowance” is not enough? 🙂 It’s not how much you make, it’s what you do with what you make.

    • Randy A. Tudy

      And it is also how much you value of what you have. On the other hand, we need to think of what else we can do given what we already have. To have more is needed to be able to help more people.

      Thanks for your posts. I enjoy reading.

  5. Sheila Menendez

    Carol, yet another timely post; although my boy is only 7, I’ve been thinking of ways to motivate him to comprehend the value of money, items purchased with the tool (money) and how to “spend a little, save a little, invest a little, and give a little” as his grandma was teaching him at her last visit.

    Great points!

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thanks, Sheila. You are right, they are never too young to start on the right track.

  6. Mike

    A very thought provoking article! Our 3 children are very different from me and from each other. The 1st son was reckless with possessions, both his and ours, so he to make a lot of restitution to us for our possessions. He ended up paying for his own car,insurance,repairs,etc.,and for our car engine he blew up. He had to learn the hard way!

    Our second son is very responsible. Never gives us any problems and tries to please us. We, however, make him pay for his own cell phone, car insurance, clothes, pay tithe and offerings, and save half of what is left over.”The laborer is worthy of his hire.” We have never paid an allowance( my Mom said was our duty to work around the house–free housing).Our 2nd oldest uses our ’95 Geo Metro to go to work and doesn’t hot-rod. He brings us much joy!!!

    • Carol J. Alexander

      We make a lot of mistakes with our first-borns, Mike, but the Scripture promises that God will restore the years the locust have stolen. I’m sure I’m taking that verse out of context, but it does give me peace of mind when I’m agonizing over the issue. Thanks for sharing.

  7. jbledsoejr

    Great post! Nice ways to help them learn to manage their money.

  8. shanna

    Excellent post. I agree it is important to teach our children to work for their money, save and/or invest and to give. Our children have no problem with the spending part. They are great children and we are teaching these values. I am modeling the lessons that my parents taught our family. I was not allowed to work a regular job until I was a senior in high school. To be honest, my Dad was in poor health and that’s probably the only reason I was able to work prior to graduation. An extremely hard worker, my Dad felt that we had our whole lives ahead of us to worry and to have to work. We were however allowed to do odd jobs to make money. We also cleaned and sold scrap metal before it was a popular and green thing to do. We also babysat and cleaned for a neighbor. In my senior year I was to use my summer money to purchase school supplies and I
    clothing that I wanted. I agree that teens should work for their wants, privileges and extras. After graduation, I worked full time, attended college and babysat too. I paid for bills and housing needs as well as helping to support our family as my Dad became disabled. I paid for my car paymenand insurance and gas. Although I worked for the family, I feel that it is my responsibility to provide the room and board.

    I love your ideas. Great idea fir the savings purposes. I think you have great ideas.

  9. Noelle

    Great thought provoking post. I would agree that teenagers should pay much of their own expenses but not room and board. But clothes, cell phones and entertainment expenses should all the their responsibility. I helped both of mine buy a car but they had to save a portion of the price and take care of running costs.

  10. Margaret Lukasik

    Teens as well as children can never learn soon enough that it’s important to become cheerful givers as we’re told to do in 2 Corinthians 9:7. I’m glad your article brings up this issue. I wasn’t brought up that way and it was difficult to change when I began to read the Bible from stingy to thankful for what I had with a desire to give to God what belongs to Him.