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

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