A Lesson in Dollars and Cents – Teaching Teens About Money

How I’m Teaching My Teens to Spend Their Own Money and Less of Mine

If you’re a parent, guardian or relative to teenagers then you know how trying it can be to “teach” them anything. At this stage of life, they know it all, have done it all and are moving on to bigger asinine better things.

I’ve struggled with how and when to introduce fiscal responsibility to the dynamic duo for two reasons: 1) I’m kinda short on patience  and 2) I’m kinda short on time. With youth functions at church, volunteer activities in the community, school, plays, sports, games, parent meetings, family gatherings…you get the idea…trying to interject something new to learn is a slippery slope. I’m almost guaranteed a 100% “no thanks” on their part.

Plus, I wanted this dollars-and-cents thing to be more than just a lecture–I wanted it to be hands on, engaging, and absolutely voluntary. And by voluntary, I mean they had to participate but I didn’t want to force them. Kinda like when I say oh honey, you don’t have to eat your veggies. Just be prepared to give up anything sweet for 2 weeks. Either way, I’m fine with your decision. Ha!

To Accountability…and Beyond!

Simple plan. Easy concept. Little time to implement. That’s what I was after. Unlike our allowance system–which bombed completely–I wanted something they could be excited about. What I did next, surprised even myself.

I’d been watching the latest from the fabulous Montina Portis. I’d connected with Montina about 2 years ago on Twitter and have recently re-connected with her on YouTube. She’s dynamic, a former solo parent and an overcomer–much like myself. I dug out my notes from one of her blogcasts, read through it and jumped on the computer. Here’s how it all went down.

  1. I opened 2 Paypal Student Debit Card Accounts; one for each teen.
  2. I funded the accounts,  and set permissions and restriction levels. Yes, somethings will require my approval first.
  3. I told each teen about it separately. They’re besties–like really, really besties–so I wanted to make sure each one had the chance to process the information sans input from the other.
  4. I explained that instead of paying for chores, I’d be paying for grades. Every A earned ‘x’ amount. Every B would earn half of ‘x’ and every C would earn you ZERO!! And D’s meant you were toast so proceed at your own peril.
  5. I explained chores were mandatory and if completed on time, I would gladly do their chores every other week to give them a break–but only if they did theirs on time.
  6. Complex chores would be a pay-for-hire kind of arrangement. Like window blinds. for example. I hate cleaning them but I have no qualms with paying one of them to do it. Going once, twice, sold to the teen with the ambition!
  7. They would now be responsible for buying their own stuff. Booya!! Now that both of them are earning money every month from their grades, they have the means to buy whatever they need or want with their own money. No more “mom, can you buy me…” You want it? You pay for it.
  8. They would keep a ledger or budget of their finances. I’m a stickler for budgets. I have a pretty easy to use spreadsheet that calculates income, expenses and money spent. I created one for each of them, taught them how to update and use it and viola! They’re off to the races.

To say I had their attention was the understatement of the year. Not only were they excited, they were engaged, came to the table with their own ideas and solutions, and jumped in with both feet.

You know what else? Their whole attitude on chores, team work and being responsible miraculously changed over night!!! Okay, seriously? That never happens folks. But what did happen was they are doing chores more consistently and they are already planning out a budget up to Christmas. Oh and miraculously–for real this time–my daughter no longer wants those Uggs she asked me to buy 2 weeks ago saying, “they’re just not my style.” Coincidence? I think not.

It’s never too early to teach our youth about money and responsibility. The skills and disciplines they learn now will mold how they live, respond and behave later.

7 thoughts on “A Lesson in Dollars and Cents – Teaching Teens About Money

    • Montina Portis (@sparkwisdom) says:

      EXCELLENT article! Absolutely an amazing way to teach your teens about money, responsibility and a spending plan. Super! I truly believe that when we empower them we can help them aim at the target of financial responsibility. It IS okay to spend as long as you’re giving and saving too. I like your idea about the complex chores too. You, my dear, took what I was saying and applied ACTION! Way to go!


      • Selena says:

        Thanks so much Montina! It has truly been a behavior changing wonder in our home! I simply cannot believe the difference this has made.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Very cool Selena! I somewhat implemented the pay for grade policy but forgot about it when my oldest graduated. I think I will try your strategy with my daughter starting this summer.


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