Sunday, June 10, 2012

Teen Money Matters

A few months ago the daughter was complaining about needing a new belt. At the same time for the last few years or so she has avoided as best she can running errands with me. 

We have done everything together for years. This was a blow. 

It meant I was at the store alone but I saw some belts on sale. I texted her and sent her photos. I bought one. Got it home and she did not like it.
She did not in a mature way leave it with me and ask for a new one. We could have exchanged it. Instead she left it laying around. This does not always mean disinterest so it took me a while to get to the bottom of her issue.

A few dollars and time wasted. I got a new idea. She is too old for me to buy everything for her. I still have to pay for it but she needs to take some control and ownership. 

She had also started ribbing me for loving to pick up toiletries and other items from the $1 store. She wanted expensive razors and so many other things.

I did not grow up with an allowance and I could not afford to give her one. Instead I told her I would give her the cash out of the budget that I would normally spend on her. She would be responsible to shop for these things she wanted so I did not keep getting it wrong.

This was exciting to us both and we tried it. 

I told her I wanted her to keep a running budget on paper. Either start with the beginning amount I gave her or at least keep track of what she was spending where and when so we could go over it and keep tabs on it.

I asked her to gather her receipts and be able to present them to me. None of these things happened.
Fast forward six months or so and well we kind of hit a snag. The good thing was she learned that life is expensive. I thought she knew that. Buying all the items she wanted without price checking really cut into her funds.
Oh so that is why mom loves the dollar store…

The bad thing was she was kind of treating the money like an allowance. Once she had bought the items she needed on her list if there was anything left she would spend it on candy or gifts for friends and family. Not birthday gifts for special occasions. Just random gifts for her baby step nieces etc.

The girl has a good heart but this was not the purpose of the money I was giving her. It would lead to her being out of funds when a need arose. Finally I had to stop the experiment. We were both disappointed. 

All is not lost. Stay tuned…


  1. Why do you think an allowance is wrong? I had a monthly allowance from age 10, and with it, I had to buy everything except shoes and coats. I had specific jobs that I had to do around the house, and my allowance was payment for those jobs. If I didn't do them, my allowance was docked. It worked pretty well, I think. I'm not great with money, but I did manage to live on a graduate stipend for several years.

    1. I did not say I think allowance is wrong. I said I did not grow up with one, I could not afford to just give her extra money out of my single mom budget and when she started using the money that was for her needs as allowance to buy candy, junk food and non specific gifts for family and friends she was abusing the privilege.

      Families handle these issues in a myriad of ways. If I was paying her for chores I would not call that allowance. I could call it payment.

      If I had the extra money to give her that would instead be spent on desires or put into savings I would call that allowance.

      I think there are many healthy ways to give young people money and help them learn to use it. They key is monitoring what they are doing and pulling back when needed.

  2. Actually, it sounds to me like it worked really well. If she wasn't pestering you for money between times, and you weren't having to spend extra money on her, and this is money you would have spent on her anyway, what's the problem? I get that you want her to learn responsibility, but the best lesson is going to be a NEED that arises that she can't afford. Having to navigate that crises with your emotional (but not financial) support could be a huge lesson for the both of you. I suggest that you try again, but don't try to control the funds once you hand them over. Give them to her and back off. Try it for three months and see what happens. Honestly, it sounds to me like she was doing a decent job, but you can't expect her to be perfect right out of the gun. This is about learning, and she's slowly getting the hang of it. Of course, it's SO easy for me to think that from my armchair. It could be totally different in the trenches, and I apologize if I'm way off base!

    1. Maybe it helps to see the follow up post. Maybe I was a little unclear in this post. Either way I welcome the questions and insights.

      I started out just navigating through what my daughter was dealing with as her funds ran out and then she would be bummed.

      The problem really came to light when she would be counting on the money each month like it was an allowance and planning to use it for fun extras instead of understanding she needed to buy needs only and save the rest.

      She was not learning to save. She was not learning to budget. She was also wasting money on candy and junk food. There is no way I needed to be funding that. Especially when I might then have to hand over money for something like transportation because she needed to get some where I could not take her.

      These are just the stories of our life. I might not have shared about this experiment if she had not written the note recently.

      It was nice to have it come full circle. I just knew I could not tell the story with full effect backwards or at least I did not want to.

      If I had given her straight allowance that had no strings attached to it I would agree with you. That was not what this was.