Tweens & Teens: Teaching teens to manage money

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Smith

Welcome to the March edition of Teens and Tweens. Or as I like to call it, how in the world did I survive this long with our kids driving us crazy? Because we LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! our little babies, who are not so little anymore.

This month, I had initially thought about doing a column on talking to teens who are starting to handle themselves (literally, if you know what I mean). Yes, I mean mastur******  (I was asked not to use this word entirely because Google searches for adult content can pull this column up and Gwen and Shannon can get bad, nasty spam and we don’t want that); however, due to reasons beyond my control (my wife said “no”), I will keep this one for another time.

(If you want to see this issue addressed, as it is a very real issue for teens, then email Gwen and Shannon at and they’ll pass on your request. All the topics are all real questions that have been submitted or requested). Or you can post a comment by clicking the orange button below if you have suggestions about future articles.

Ok…back to our March question, which is a bit easier to answer. Here it is:

As my kids have grown, the price tags on the things they want have also grown. So should I tie chores to money? Or do a standard allowance amount regardless of chores? Do you have any general guidelines I can use to help my teenagers appreciate how important it is to manage their own money?  I want them to understand how much things really cost so that I’m not always the bad guy.

I would like to start off by saying that this is a nation of indulgence. Everyone, all ages included, wants everything now. To quote the rock group Queen, “I want it all!  I want it all! And I want it now!” Love the song and the lyrics could not be more true of how we think these days.

Also, we’re a nation of entitlement. This means we feel entitled to get everything now without earning it. We should get it because…well, because we just should. Nothing could be further from the truth. My grandmother is head banging to those Queen lyrics now as I can hear her saying, “Back when I was a kid…”

Consider the following Top 10 items teens plan to buy using their own money:

  1.  Clothes
  2.  Shoes
  3.  Music
  4.  Video Games
  5.  Jewelry
  6.  Food
  7.  Soda
  8.  Car/car parts
  9.  Candy
  10.  Lunch

Also, did you know that 80% of U.S. mall shoppers are 14 – 17 years old? Those same teens spend an average of $46.80 per mall visit. They visit malls more frequently than any other age group at a rate averaging once per week, and they also spend the most time there per visit. (*Source for both:  MediaMark Research)

There are times I get my children something because I want them to have it. BUT, I also must realize that giving them everything they want creates a dependency they will develop for others to provide for them.

As children get older, it becomes our responsibility as parents to wean them from that dependency. As such, the older they get, the more they must contribute to whatever they are requesting. Food, basic clothing needs, and bills related to housing (electric, water, etc.) are excluded. Those are my responsibility.

Since some of the items mentioned above can cost a lot of $$$, my wife and I may offer to pay for some of the cost, but anything above and beyond that cost must be paid for by them. And we don’t always offer. There are many times we say, “Get what you want, as long as you pay for it.”

So, my son, who recently bought a pair of Nike ID shoes (talk about high $$$), had to pay quite a bit of his own money to make up the cost. Our portion was his Christmas gift. Then, when the heel tore within 4-6 weeks of him getting them, I made him call the company and talk with a representative about how to solve the problem. Yes, we were right by the phone, but he looked up Nike’s phone number, called them, and talked to the representative himself. That was his responsibility to take. Otherwise, he would have had to walk around with a torn heel on his high-dollar tennis shoes. And though he did not like doing it, he knew we weren’t budging on having him take responsibility for solving the problem. (He is 13-years-old, for those of you wondering.)

If your teen does not have a birthday coming up where they can ask for money, gift cards, etc., then I would definitely tie chores to them earning extra money. “You can pay me back” is not an option. After all, if I want extra money, I have to work extra hours, and my boss never says I can “pay him back”.  Why should our children be any different?

Obviously, this doesn’t mean you can be ridiculous with your requests. Cutting the grass, cutting the neighbor’s grass, cleaning the house, cleaning the garage, cutting wood, etc. are good thoughts. If your teen has a job, then they can ask their boss for additional hours.

Remember, if you let your child have everything they want, they become dependent and want more. If they want more, you end up buying them a car. If they get a car, they will want a Ferrari. If they get a Ferrari, they’ll drive way too fast and get lots of speeding tickets that’ll cost a fortune to pay. Don’t let them get speeding tickets that cost a fortune to pay (please no emails about driving safety…this is a takeoff joke from the GEICO commercials that I made up as an attempt to humorously end this article). 🙂

Till next month.


Click here to read previous articles on Tweens & Teens. Got a question for Dr. Jones, a child psychologist for Mercy Health? Send it to us (we won’t use your name) and we may feature it in an upcoming installment of Tweens & Teens.