Allowance and Money Management for Teens
Many parents often wonder how to teach teens to learn to manage money. Many children and teens get a weekly allowance. Some have to earn it by completing chores, whereas others simply get money regardless of what they do.
Here are a few suggestions for determining how to structure an allowance system for your teen:
1) Determine the extent to which your teen will need to rely on an allowance to cover certain costs. Specifically, will the money earned be the only money he or she has each week to buy lunch, go the movies, go out to dinner with friends, and use to buy clothing and other necessities and luxuries? Will you continue to cover basics such as clothing, lunch at school, and so forth, and have your teen use their allowance for general spending: I.e., going to the movies or out to dinner with friends? Establishing what your teen will use an allowance for is important in determining how much money to give them each week.
2) Earning money vs. being given the money regardless of what they do. Parents often wonder on how to determine the manner in which an allowance is earned/given. On this particular issue, there are a lot of factors to consider, most of which need to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Specifically, one concern is that for some teens, they may become accustomed to completing chores that they should be doing anyway to earn money, and when the time comes to stop the allowance, they may be more resistant to doing those chores without the incentive of money for them. At the same time, it can be good to make teens do something to earn spending money so that they realize that in adult life, one usually needs to work in order to have money to spend on items. Therefore, the choice is ultimately up to parents on whether to give teens money in exchange for chores, or to give them money regardless. It makes sense for parents to think about how their teen views money and determine which strategy is in their teen’s best interest.
3) One option with the earning/receiving debate on allowance is to create a hybrid allowance system. Specifically, a teen can be given a base allowance weekly regardless of what they do, and can earn additional money for completing chores or other tasks. In a lot of cases, it may be best to include chores that benefit the family as a whole, rather than chores that only benefit the teen and they should be doing anyway. For instance, picking up younger siblings at school, food shopping, running errands, babysitting younger siblings, cleaning the bathroom, and other similar tasks may be good options for teens in order to earn extra money. Obviously, it would be nice if teens did these tasks to be nice anyway, rather than just to earn money, but these types of tasks may be a bit better to use to earn money than tasks that just benefit the teen themselves. Tasks that just benefit the teen may include: making their bed, keeping their room clean, keeping their bathroom clean, doing their laundry in a timely fashion, and so forth. However, in some cases, if teens have significant difficulty completing these tasks, it may be worthwhile in the short-term to include these items as part of an allowance system, but doing so needs to be thought about carefully with the purpose of motivating teens to complete these items so long-term they can get in the habit of doing them.
4) Helping teens to setup a budget is important, especially for older teens if they are using their allowance to cover most of their living expenses. Sit down with them, use a computer program or app such as Mint.com or Spendology, and help them to learn how to distribute their money each week to different costs so that they don’t overextend themselves. Teaching teens how to manage an allowance now will make the transition into managing money as an adult much easier.
Like many aspects of parenting, allowance and money management systems need to be developed on a case-by-case basis for your teen, taking into account a variety of the factors discussed above. Allowances are helpful, and determining how the money should be obtained is important as well.
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*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*