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Terrible Teens: Every teen needs money management

Ellen Coy is a mom to three teens and wife to a husband of many, many years, but she married young so she still thinks she's pretty hip. She's written a lot of things for a lot of places but she can't tell you where or what. Terrible Tee...

Teaching teens to spend and save wisely

Teens are expensive.

They need things. Like clothes and food. But they also want things. Like clothes and food. And movie tickets, coffee, hamburgers, designer cupcakes, ice cream, basketball shoes and funky basketball socks to go with the shoes. They also want sunglasses, designer purses and accessories to go with their designer purses and a bunch of makeup and other stuff.

They want a lot of stuff.

And there's no way we can give them everything they want. We want to give them everything they need but there comes a point in their lives where we need to give them some money management.

That time for our family came a few months ago when my husband and I decided that we would give our two oldest teens debit cards with a set amount of money on them each month. We decided to do this instead of doling out tens and twenties each time they wanted to go to the mall, or out to eat or to the movies with their friends.

We decided on a hundred dollars a month.

For our daughter, this was just like some bonus money because she already has a lot of money saved from babysitting jobs, and she still babysits so she has money coming in all the time.

For our son, this was like Christmas morning every month when that money was put into his debit account. Except it wasn't like that the first month we handed over the card to him. He was terrified to use it.

"I don't want the card," he said.

"Why?" I asked him.

"I'm afraid I'll use it all for food."

"That’s what it's for," I told him.

He thought he would end up using all the money in a matter of a week on food. We told him that this is to teach him responsibility and that the point is to learn to manage his money and figure out how to make it stretch through the month so that he doesn't use it all up in the first week.

So, the first month he didn't go anywhere, he didn't buy anything, he didn't take out that debit card at all. And at the end of the month, he still had his one hundred dollars.

And we put another hundred dollars in his account.

Finally, he thought about it and realized he could use some of the money and be smart about it. Now, after a few months of him having an account, he is being responsible and not zeroing out his balance.

My daughter is being responsible with her account, too. Along with the money we place on her debit card, she adds to the account so she always has plenty of money. If she wants to buy something special, she can afford to do it. She also continues to put money in her separate savings account.

Each month when we get our kids' statements, we love to look at their purchases. We can pretty much count on what they'll buy.

Our daughter's tallies: Starbucks, Ulta, Amazon, clothing stores. Definitely typical girl stuff.

And our son has numerous purchases on his debit card too, but they each have one thing in common: They are all food locations. He buys nothing but food with the money we give him. And I think he will only use his debit card for food.

So far, this is working out well. I'm pretty sure we're saving money this way, and we're teaching our kids to be responsible with their money. It also gives them a sense of independence, so this is a win-win for all of us. But thank goodness our 13-year-old hasn't asked for his own debit card yet, or we're going to go broke very soon. Three teens are expensive to raise!

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