How to spend less money as a teenager? Find 9 actionable strategies that will fit into your teen’s social and daily life.
How to spend less money as a teenager?
Your teen might be wondering this for a number of reasons.
- They want to save up for something, and realize that they need to cut back in other areas to get there faster.
- They’ve been handed some new money responsibilities to pay for, and their teen expenses are getting too high for what they earn.
- They’re spending so frivolously that they’ve had to say “no” to going out with friends on the weekend.
- They realize they are spending too much, and want to rein that in (just one of 11 teenage financial problems they might be dealing with).
- Their parents want them to (haha! No shame in that).
If your teen is spending all of their money week-to-week, or is trying to save up for something and is wondering where to get extra money from, then these tips below will help guide them.
How to Spend Less Money as a Teenager
Use these tips below to help your child learn how to spend money wisely as a teenager.
Psst: you'll also want to check out my article on what a teen should do with their money.
1. Explain that Money has a Purpose Besides to Spend it Right Away
This may sound like a “duh” moment here…but it’s not for kids and teens.
Lots of kids never actually realize that money is for something other than to spend right now.
That if they don’t spend it right now, it can have even greater value.
Hint: some adults haven’t gotten this idea, either. So, don’t get frustrated if it takes a while, in practice!
I mean – think about it. When a child gets their first money, they're likely to spend it on something. Like on their first store transaction. Or their birthday money they get to pick something out
As a child ages into a tween and teen, they may have never given this a second thought or have learned any differently.
So, you want to introduce the concept to your teenager that the only purpose of money is NOT to spend it right now.
There are other, cooler things that you can do with it.
A few that come to mind you could share:
- Make money earn its own money by sticking it in a savings account
- Save up several weeks’ or months’ worth (their pay cycles – allowances, chore commissions, jobs, etc.) so that they can afford something bigger
- Becoming a part-owner to a company by investing in it
Hint: here's 9 reasons to save money for teens, written from a teen perspective.
2. Steer Hangouts Towards Cheap or Free Ideas
One category where a teen can spend more than they mean to is hanging out with friends.
Like, meeting up at the mall, going out to the movies together, shopping, etc.
Your teenager might not think they have much say when it comes to spending money to go out with their friends, but you can let them know that they do!
OR, they might feel embarrassed to tell their friends they don’t want to (or don’t have enough) spend a bunch of money.
Instead, encourage them to proactively brainstorm and research cheap/free ideas to suggest to their friends the next time they want to do something cool together.
Chances are, their friends will like the ideas, too, and everyone will spend a bit less money than normal.
Psst: check out these 26 cheap or free things to do with teenage friends when bored, 47 cheap date ideas for teenage couples, and 100 things to do at a sleepover.
3. Calculate the Gas Costs Together
One of the most expensive, if not the most expensive, purchases a teenager will make during the teen and young adult years is a vehicle.
Not every teen will buy one, but some will (I bought my own used car when I was 17).
What I encourage you to get your teenager to do, is to think beyond just the purchase price of the car they want.
Instead, calculate how much a months’ worth of gas will cost in each vehicle they’re serious about buying.
Here’s what they’ll need:
- Average mile/gallon (mpg) for the car make/model they want to buy
- Estimated miles driven in a week
- Current cost of a gallon of gas
You can get nitty-gritty here, or you can keep it simple.
To keep it simple, you could assume they’ll drive 200 miles/week, that the car they want gets an average of 30 mpg, and that the average cost of gas right now is $2.79.
Here’s the calculation, plus an example:
- Number of total miles each month would be 4 weeks X 200 miles/week = 800 miles/month.
- Number of total miles each month, divided by average mpg for the car they want to buy. In our example, that’s 800 miles/30 mpg = 26.67 gallons of gas they’ll need to buy/month.
- Number of gallons they need to buy X Average cost per gallon of gas. In our example, that’s 26.67 gallons X $2.79/gallon of gas = $74.40/month in gas costs.
- Total monthly gas cost divided by 4 weeks to get your weekly gas cost. In our example, that’s $74.40/4 weeks = $18.60/week.
Now, without going through that calculation again, if your teen wanted to buy a car with just an average 25 mpg?
Well, gas for that vehicle would cost them an estimated $89.28, or $22.32/week.
Over a whole year? That would cost them an extra $193.44.
Something to think about, for sure.
Psst: here are more calculations to help with how to teach your teenager the value of money.
4. Only Take the Cash They Need
One of the best ways to help your teen to spend less money is to help them self-cut-off access to their funds when they’re out and about.
In other words, just bring what they need for where they’re going.
For the movies? $20 can do it. For a field trip? Bring the cost of lunch, only.
To do this, they’ll need to have other spaces where they can keep money. I suggest a savings space – like a money jar, or an actual savings account – where they can hold the rest of their money they don’t want to touch.
They can also play around with these free money envelopes for kids and teens and just bring the designated money envelope with them when they go out.
Hint: you'll want to check out the 11 things to put in your wallet for teenagers.
5. Take Courses that Will Decrease Future Costs
Your teen (and you) has some big costs coming in the future.
Driving, possibly owning a car, possibly going to college, getting your first apartment – these
purchasing occasions things are all on the horizon.
Did you guys know that taking certain courses now can save you big bucks on those big costs?
Here are some ideas to prep you for future savings:
- Driver’s Ed Course: This course will not only save them on auto insurance costs when they start to drive, but could ultimately save massive repair costs and even their lives by preventing future accidents.
- College Credit Courses: If your teen is thinking about going for secondary education, then having them take courses in high school that will earn them college credit is a no-brainer way to save money.
6. Keep a Running Wish List in their Wallet/Purse
Worried that “my teenager spends too much money“?
When your teen is out shopping or online looking at things that they want to buy, they can whip out a small index card from their purse/wallet and write it down.
This way, when someone asks what they want for their next birthday, graduation gift (here are smart ways to spend your graduation money), new-driver gift, Christmas, etc., they’ll have a running list of things they’d love and won’t have to pay to get, themselves! And if they get money (here's creative ways to gift money to teens), then they can use part of it to purchase things from the list.
7. Learn to Use these Six Words
Teach your teens to use these six words, almost every time they’re going to buy something:
“Do you give a student discount?”
Not only that, but to carry around their high school ID card with them wherever they go.
You’d be surprised how many student discounts are out there for the taking, but may not be advertised.
8. Help them Audit their Repeat Purchases
Does your teen snack on the same thing from a vending machine several times a week?
Or gets the same order from the drive-thru each weekend?
There are ways that your teenager can spend less money on the things that they buy most often, and this is a great way to help them learn this important frugal skill early on.
For example, they could:
- Buy a package of what they eat at the vending machine each week from a grocery store, and store it in their locker. They’d probably save 30%-40% (as long as they don’t gobble it all down at once…)
- Locate the cheapest gas near them through an app like Gas Buddy, so that they can start spending less in that category.
9. Teach them the Coupon Code Trick
Before your teen makes any purchase online (either through you, or on their own as they get older), teach them to search for the store they’re making a purchase at + “coupon”.
You never know what coupon code might pop up!
How to spend less money as a teen really boils down to showing your child some strategies that will work in their everyday life, and then helping them to take action. Once they get the hang of it, spending less money and saving more of it will become a teen money management habit to them they’ll be thankful you helped instill at a young age.
Amanda L. Grossman
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