How Teens Waste Money (and how to help them to stop)

Teenagers!!! Grrrrr…..!!


Since starting this blog, I have pickedup quite a number of thrifty followers (hello to you!) and I have been able to pick their collective brains on ways to save money. (Thank you) And hopefully, I will be able to pass on a few tips of my own (you’re welcome).

I have noticed, however, that among thrift bloggers, teen children are a rarity. Other writers don’t seem to have an army of militant teens trying to undermine their every saving. Maybe that’s because people with teens have given up and gone to ground. I totally empathise.

Here are the top ten ways that my teens waste money.

1 Bathing

Son number one will frequently stand in the shower until it runs cold, despite the queues behind him, and frequent bangs on the door. Twice a day.


One can minimum, applied after each shower. Slavish addiction to brands means that I cannot easily substitute for a cheaper alternative without a riot and cries of “it’s minging!”

3 Driving them everywhere vs driving lessons

I know it’s easy to say they should walk or bike or use public transport, and where they can, they do.  But they also have friends that live along way away, and hobbies that they love that are not within easy reach, and we step into the breach. Teaching them to drive themselves, costs about £20 per lesson, plus insurance. I don’t know anyone who has passed in less than 20 lessons. I will let you do the maths. Then, the blighters take your car, crash it, and drain the petrol.

4 School Trips

These are extortionate. A Geography trip to Iceland for the eldest came in at a whopping £900! A history field trip to Berlin is £400. It is of course possible to say no. And some people would argue that we should. But without turning on the water works, my family could not afford to send me on school trips, and I don’t want that for my kids.

5 Eating

It’s constant and relentless. My children live with their head in the fridge, and the soundtrack of my life sounds something like this…

Them: ‘There’s no food”

Me: “Check the fridge ”

Them: “that’s not food, that’s ingredients!”

And eating out? Extortionate. It’s like taking out three mates, but the kind of mates that never pay. (And who then moan that they weren’t allowed the most expensive thing on the menu, and that they have to drink water). So, not like mates at all really.

6 Lights on, Doors open!

Teens walk around seemingly in a state of bewilderment, with little or no consciousness of their actions. If you ask them to turn a light off, they will immediately respond that they didn’t turn it on, and therefore it’s not fair that they should expend energy to get up and turn it off (even though you just watched them turn it on with your very own eyes!) Repeat for open doors.

7 Laundry

At least three loads per day, including bedding, uniforms, games kit, towels etc. Problem exacerbated by eldest son’s insistence that reusing a towel is ‘minging’ and his habit of throwing clean clothes onto his ‘floordrobe’ instead of putting them away, and then putting said clean cloths back into the laundry basket when asked to tidy his room (grrr….)

8 Phones and Gaming

Dreamy teens often don’t think to check if they are on 3G or free wifi, prior to downloading films from the internet, we discovered, after a surprise £50 bill. And they can also run up hefty additional costs in seemingly ‘free’ games such as FarmVille. We’ve been lucky here, but many of my friends have been caught out.

9 Growing/Clothes

They just grow. Inches overnight sometimes.  My two lads are now well over 6ft. We have no friends with taller children from whom we can inherit clothes. Despite two years between them, my two lads are similar height, and so they can’t inherit clothes from each other. And unlike dressing toddlers and babies, you CANNOT buy them bargains from charity shops. Well, you can, but they won’t wear them. Shoes will cost in excess of £40, and will be trashed after a few games of footy.

10  Not Working – Bleeding Parasites

I have created a culture of dependency in my children. I think things are just too cosy for them. I had a paperound at 14, and have worked ever since. My kids just aren’t interested, but then again, why would they be, when their every need is catered for?  Then again ‘again’, I had the additional motivation of needing to find money for fags.

As things are so cushy in my house, there are currently two stray teens, “brothers from other mothers”, in my kitchen right now, chomping their way through my cereal, milk, bread, butter, hot water, leaving the lights on etc. and whom I shall probably give lifts home to tomorrow. But they are lovely and very very welcome, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Five Ways To Help Teens Understand Money

(Excluding ‘getting a job’ -that’s a whole other blog post!)

1 Give them a Monthly Allowance

Work out how much you actually spend on meals out, cinema, hobbies clothes etc per month, and also how much you would ideally like to spend. Then work out a sensible amount between the two figures, that you would be happy for them to control. Give this to them as a monthly allowance, paid directly into a bank account.  Insist that they pay their way.  Teens will become surprisingly thrifty if it is their own money that they are spending. They will also begin to get a feel for that ‘end of the month’ time, when they need to go a bit easy. Be careful not to give in to ‘can you lend me a tender’ pleadings at the end of each month, and my son’s personal  favourite..”have you got any change, I don’t want to break into a note”… Please realise, there will be some financial mistakes.  They are learning. Try not to get cross.

2 Encourage Mindfulness

This feels like a lost cause, but I am hoping that endless repetition will surely sink into their mushy minds.  Encourage teens to think of each of their actions as having a consequence, either financial or environmental or both.  There are some seriously tricksy apps and widgets to help with this.  Our £5 from eBay energy monitor helps them to ‘see’ the financial consequences of tumble drying the ‘wasn’t flipping dirty in the first place’ towel, or how much energy the Xbox uses when no-one turns it off. There are apps available on mobiles to track how you are using your data limits, and of course, with most mobile providers, the bill payer can ‘cap’ how much the user can spend.  However, it is also a good idea to encourage teens to ‘cap’ themselves (in more ways than one, but this isn’t a blog about THAT!)

3. Shower Timers

We picked up a free one from here..

There is other free stuff too!   Did I say Free!!!  This is going some way towards teaching the boy child that it should be perfectly possible to get five showers from a full tank of hot water.

4 Teach them to write a shopping list, cook, and shop.

It takes almost no skill, and very little money to whip up some pasta with a tomato or cheese sauce. Every teen should know how to do this.  So much cheaper and healthier than dialing for a Domino’s or reaching for snack products. We plan meals together using various resources, my current favourites being the Jack Monroe blog

and also a very used and crunchy copy of Grub on a Grant, a lifesaver from my own student days. It’s not even in print any more, but you can pick up a copy at Amazon for next to nothing here:

At least one child comes shopping with me.

5 Ask relatives for Money, (and remember to say thank you).

If they really want to do something costly, that is important to them, (and worthy),  ask relatives to contribute financially, in lieu of birthday or Christmas gifts. This was how the trip to Iceland was financed, partly from me, partly from the generosity of relatives, and partly from son’s own allowance. This is of course if you are really lucky and have a large and generous family. If you are so lucky to be blessed in this way, the very least you should do is say ‘thank you’.  Some people prefer to buy or make actual gifts. Respect this, and say ‘thank you’ for these too.

My kids don’t thank me for any of this by the way. But it’s not my job to be popular.

Ta ta, speak later.

Jacqui xxx

Food Glorious Food

I have three teen- locusts living in my house. If I am really serious about saving money, I have to take a long hard look at my food bill.

My shopping habits are, I believe already quite good.  By switching supermarkets, dropping brands, shopping with a list to make pre-planned meals, cooking from scratch and limiting the amount of non-essentials such as crisps and biscuits, my shop is now generally about £40 less per week than it used to be.  Hoorah!  But I would like to bring it down further.

A while ago, the govt launched a campaign to make us all aware of the fact that wasting food, costs the average household £470 per year.  Not me, I remember thinking smugly at the time, I rarely throw anything uneaten from my fridge. I have even trained my other half NOT to throw things away just because of the sell by date!  “SNIFF IT” I command.  “If it smells okay – it IS okay!”.  He has a very specific ‘uncomfortable face’ that he saves for moments such as these.  I have even been known to take things from the bin, where he has thrown them when he thinks I’m not looking, rinse them off, and return them to the fridge (Shhh….don’t tell him!)

However, I have begun to realise that I do waste food; but I tend to cook it and offer it to my family as proof of my undying and enduring love for them, prior to throwing it away.  At least a quarter of what I offer my children (other than the aforementioned crisps, and biscuits) is left uneaten.  I am a FEEDER!  I pile their plates with more than they really want or need, and then either throw the leftovers away, or piggily – eat them myself.  In my FEEDER heart, an empty plate means that I gave them too little, I have failed to nourish them.

My challenge will be to recalibrate my inner portion monitor, and ditch the feeder mentality.  I am beginning to offer the child-locusts more manageable portions, and to keep some back for seconds if they want them, and freeze or keep the remains for the following day’s lunch if they don’t.

A further Godsend is the brilliant blog by Jack Monroe For those of you who are unaware, Jack Monroe began a food blog, detailing the cost-effective recipes she had developed while eeking out the meagre, and often intermittent benefits she was receiving.  Her recipes are delicious.  I am typing this while chomping away on some Bramley Soda Bread, with cheese.  Using her search function, I have planned my menus around all the old tins of beans, lentils and droopy bits of veg that have been hanging around in my cupboard for months – as opposed to planning them around what I would quite like to eat that week.  Not only did I knock a third off my food bill, but I got an extra 5 days out of the weekly shop. That point at which I would have looked at the cupboard and thought we had nothing in has been extended by five days!!!  This is potentially MEGA!

However, I am also aware, that whilst I am scouring Jack’s blog to save some pennies for what is, essentially a nice family holiday, many of the people using it, will be doing so because they simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet.  Three in ten people say that they are struggling to feed themselves and their families because of the rising cost of food.  The Trussell Trust reports that there has been a 170 per cent rise in the number of people using food banks in the last 12 months.

You may have seen Jack Monroe on the Big Benefits Row – you know, the one where Edwina Curry said she was quite comfortable living in a Britain where people do not have enough money to buy food.

I’m not. I’m not happy about this at all!

So, a proportion of the savings I am making will be donated to my local food bank as foodstuff.  If you want to do the same, you can find your nearest food bank project here.

Libraries – Who Knew???

First Things First

After our financial planning meeting of last weekend, B and I came away with a pair of ‘to check’ lists. Checking our regular bills and standing orders and checking we’ve got the best deals.   I’ve checked all of mine.  B is about to begin his (he says). Not that saving money is a competition or anything. But if it were a competition, I would be winning.

Disappontingly, I did not discover a worm hole through which our money is disappearing. Which means there are no quick and substantial savings to be made.  But as a cycling fan, I am setting great store by Team Sky’s theory of marginal gains. In that case, tiny savings in weight, and aerodynamics, each insignificant on their own, added up to make the difference between gold and silver.  In my case, I hope that reducing regular payments, even by tiny amounts, could be the difference between Kakadu, and Kakaddidn’t!

I did discover that our pet insurance premiums have crept up without us really noticing. When we bought our insurance from More Than, it definately the cheapest. Then each year, at renewals time, a couple of quid per month were added on in return for additional features and extra cover, and I hadn’t really been bothered enough to call and change it; it’s just a couple of quid right?  Luckily, even though the policy is mid term, More Than agreed to cancel it, and reinstate my cheaper premium. So, that’s £8 per month saved. Of course some people would argue that pet insurance isn’t strictly necessary.  But having previously owned a dog that visited the vet at least once a month during his life time, for eating rocks, socks, liquer chocolates and other doggie contraband, and who then got himself run over and killed (but not before undergoing expensive surgery!)  I wouldn’t want to be without pet insurance entirely.

So far, so dull. BUT, this week I have happened upon something amazing.  B currently spends about £15 per month on audio books to listen to on his monster commute.  He has managed to go from ignoramus to bookworm without ever having actually READ anything. After all, he told me, when I worried that our boys may be falling behind in literacy at school, “reading is for girls”.  So that commute has been good for something, but at £180 per year it’s not so good for our holiday plans. In a spookily timely work meeting about local library services, someone dropped the little thrifty bombshell that libraries -yours and mine – OUR libraries – do free downloads of audio books! And not only audio books, but e-magazines and e-books too! How did I not know this? How did this pass me by?  Probably, because, to my shame, I haven’t actually popped into my local library as a user since my children were little. Not properly anyway. And I also realised, if I don’t start popping in more frequently, then my library might not be there to pop into for much longer. In austerity Britain, library services are under threat.  We need to use them or lose them.

So, this Saturday we are off for a family trip to the library, to get reissued with new cards (we’ve lost them all!) and to peruse the travel section to gain some inspiration for our trip. The kids are thrilled, naturally.  More on them and their unbridled enthusiasm for this project in another post.

Ta ta. Speak soon.  Xx

Financial Planning Begins…Oh Dear

I should state from the very outset, that I am fully aware that we are in so many ways very very fortunate.  I completely understand that what I am about to describe here, as a headache for me, would be a non-problem for many.  This is not a whinge. This is a statement of the facts of our lives.

Hubby has a good secure job. It’s well paid, and he has a good pension. We are all healthy. We live in a lovely house, in a lovely town, and have two cars. The downside?  I rarely see my husband, and my children rarely see their father.  Every day he engages in a commute that requires him to leave the house at 5am, stay overnight, and then return at 8pm the following day.  He is a family man.  I know this situation must be incredibly rough for him. This is why we are planning the big holiday. Not just two weeks, but a two month long sabbatical.  An adventure.  He needs a break, and we all need to be together to create some amazing family memories before our children spread their wings.

For many years, his salary was more than enough, and then gradually, since 2008, we have felt the squeeze a little more each year. So, for this holiday to take place, we not only have to reign in our current spending considerably – we also have to find enough to fill the overdraft hole, and then find ‘extra’ money, and save it somehow.  Now, I should add here, that I am already fairly hot on not wasting money. I already think we are fairly pared down to the bone. We no longer spend money on meals out (except on birthdays) and I compare every major bill to ensure we are getting the cheapest rate. I don’t get my nails done, or have my hair done (very often) and I rarely buy new clothes preferring charity shop bargains. I cannot remember the last time I bought any new make up, and whilst I hate to think of the bacterial build up – I am proud to say that I still have a lipstick compact that I bought in 1996. Oh – and I love a voucher!

Getting the husband to actually sit down and look at the finances has been very tricky. Firstly, we don’t see each other very often to talk, and when we do see each other, the last thing he wants to do is talk about money. Secondly, I think (but he doesn’t say) that my worrying about money is an affront to his ability to bring it in.  A challenge to his perceived role as provider for his family. In the end, I took a spreadsheet on a dog walk, and hassled him as we walked.

And the result of todays meeting/harrying?  Well, we have discovered that we have a very very long way to go, in order to save enough money to venture on an extended holiday.   But, every journey starts with a single step, and the step we took today was to stop closing our eyes to our financial situation and to vow to take positive action. And, we have identified some potential areas for savings.   When I find a gem of saving – I will pass it onto you!

Every little helps. Look after the pennies. Many a mickle macks a muckle – and all of that!

Ta ta – speak later.