Teen daughter and money....thoughts?

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-09-2013
Teen daughter and money....thoughts?
Wed, 10-09-2013 - 3:18pm

Apologies for the lengthy post: 

I have joint (non-custodial) custody of my 15 year old daughter. I am re-married, stay at home with my and current hubby's son (11) and my husband works his behind off to make decent money. My ex husband is still single and is struggling with his own business. I don't know how much he makes but I think it is not much guessing from things my daughter tells me. 

I see my daughter a few weekends a month or extended school breaks (she lives 2 hours away). We, my husband and I, provide insurance for her, we pay travel expenses in lieu of child support, we bought her laptop for school, we pay for her cell phone as well as pay for the co-pays when we take her to medical appointments. Her Dad gets to claim her on taxes, pays for the little food they have, splits out of pocket medical expenses and gets her clothes. 

My dilemma is: 

My husband and I have always gotten her the things she needs or wants when we can afford it but it is getting a bit costly for us now. We suggested she get a job after school, which she wants to do, but her Dad will only let her work for him, which he as yet to allow her to begin doing. 

Our son, on the other hand, does chores 5 days a week and earns the money he has saved and uses it for games, toys, etc, although we purchase most things for him. Since I have little time with my daughter as it is, I feel I should not ask her to do chores while she is spending time with us and it is only obvious she can't get a job where we live. We do ask her to help with some things around the house, putting away groceries, gathering laundry, etc. but I feel it is time she starts earning the money she asks for...especially now that she is asking us to get her a car because her Dad can't afford it. 

My question: 

Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions on how she can earn the money for the things she asks for? I don't want all her time with us to be doing chores, but I also realize we need to stop giving her what she wants when she has not earned it. 

Thanks in advance for the advice!


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Fri, 10-11-2013 - 8:32pm

Never to long on your post as it gives us more information to work with.

Every family and every situation has lots of different constraints and conditions that are not apparent from a distance to those of us who don’t know the full story. We’re filling in gaps and run the risk of reading things into the story that are not there. So, whatever we think or say may not be correct. But we try to give what we think is correct and may be helpful. I’m a rambler, so here I go.

Gentle hugs to you and welcome to our corner of the village.

I have no BTDT experience with a blinded family situation, which I think is no less difficult than landing men on the moon. But, it can be done and done well, which is what you are seeking to do.

I went back to a “real job” (LOL) from being a SAHM and paid another mom to watch the girls after school until I got off work and picked them up at her home. I had done this type of side work for other working moms before going back to work. With our girls we did a blinded type thing. We gave the girls chores that increased as they got older for allowance money. This teaches the linkage between work and money. At about 11 and 12, we turned a chunk of family money over to them to manage with certain rules about accounting for the money (to be sure it was not going into a bong or nose straw or a crack pipe) and not dressing like a stripper, working girl, or homeless person. This included money for clothing, incidentals like hair care, entertainment like movies, six flags, waterpark, computer, cell phones, school lunch, and the continued allowance for chores like vacuuming, mowing the lawn, washing the cars, washing cloths, cooking meals, as they got older having supper ready when we got hubby and I got home, etcetera. We were amazed by how careful they became with their money. Thrift store clothes, brown bag lunches, and other things became acceptable because they could use the savings how they wanted. The also started baby setting and mowing lawns for more money. They also got real good at not buying things like cell phones so that they could spend their money on other things they wanted more. This arrangement has avoided lots of arguments in the family also.

(The chunk was $250 per month each when they were preteen and early teens, increased to $400 when they agreed to delay getting the solo drivers license (a true bargain for pops and me and explained below), increased to $600 when they married, with another $250 per month over 60 months to pay off the student debt for their BS degrees (explained below). Our counterpart in-laws have done the same funding for the SILs. As noted by others these puppies become more expensive and complicated as they grow up. LOL They eat more, cloths cost more, makeup, the list is endless. Another facet of it is that hubby and I now give the girls our food money and they do all the grocery shopping and have dinner ready for us when we get home from our day jobs to our evening job of watching the grandkids as they go off to classes four evenings a week. And they do the vast majority of housework, mow the lawn, wash the cars. I have not cleaned the master bath in years. See why I say we live with our daughters and why hubby and I don’t want them to ever leave home???? LOL And very soon the chunk of family money going to them becomes ZERO. Ah, light at the end of the tunnel. LOL)

In the process the kids learned lots of skills that will serve them in the out years. They learned the connection between work and money, budgeting and living within one, doing without things so you can have other things you want more, being careful with your money, etcetera.

Our kids went to public schools with kids whose families were on government assistance at one extreme and kids at the other extreme whose parents and grandparents could and often did out spend us middle class households 10 to 1 and the poorer families 100 to 1. This disparity left our kids with a heart for those less fortunate.

My mother gave me two pieces of advice when I married, which I passed along to our daughters when they married. One was, “Kimmy, never let the kids find any daylight between you and their father.” It appears to me that you have one very big advantage over many blended families in that both hubby and ex are willing to help work things out. I literally know ladies who would kill for that. They both sound like really great guys to me! So, I would start by discussing things with hubby and ex and trying to work together.

Your situation is different. These would be my suggestions.

First, let which ever person who can get the most benefit out of the daughter’s exemption use that exemption to keep more money in the pot for daughter’s benefit. For example if the tax benefit of the exemption is $900 tax savings to you and hubby and only $600 tax savings to ex, give ex the $600 and put the extra $300 into the pot for daughter. Win Win for your daughter and lose for the government. Sorry Republicans and Democrats. LOL

Second, kids, especially teens, are fully capable of understanding financial realities and working within them. They can understand why those rich kids have Corvettes and they are riding to prom in a SUV from the last century. Why they wear clothes from Target, Walmart, Goodwill, while others wear designer rags, etcetera. They can understand that being rich in the things that money can’t buy is much better than being rich in the things that matter little. Discuss with her and her brother those constraints. Make it a family thing.

Third, our kids dressed in gently used thrift clothing and looked every bit as good in them as those rich kids did the year before. I dress in thrift store clothing and have yet to have a co-worker notice it. Hubby wears shoes that the original owner is probably out at Boot Hill; many don’t even have scuff marks on the bottom. That may free up money for her benefit. They brown bagged lunch also as they were told on several occasions did not qualify for free lunch. LOL I told you they were scammers.

Thrift shopping can be a fun activity for the entire family. Couple of years ago, all the men went on a deer hunting trip, while daughters and I took the MILs out thrifting and they actually bought a few items. It’s a process of thinking ahead and being flexible as it is a hit and miss with thrifting. Like with fishing, some trips are better than others.

Fourth, our daughters were 18 before they got their solo license because the insurance company did not charge extra until they soloed. Hubby and I sat shotgun everywhere we went so that they would be safe and experienced drivers when they soloed. Until after they granulated from HS, the future oldest SIL did all the solo driving for the foursome and until last year when the foursome purchased a used Focus to save gas money on the long hauls to work and then to school in the other direction, they drove ancient SUVs from the last century so that they could avoid having to pay for collision insurance. Teen drivers are high risk and insurance companies are in it to make money, not to pay benefits. My point is that your daughter, due to money constraints, may have to do without a solo license and a car at her disposal. Lots of HS kids do without a car and I was one. This lack of a car may keep your daughter from getting killed on the roads also.

Driver’s license and car are more important to guys than gals, so son may get his at an earlier age.

Fifth, our two couples went to community college and local state university, to get their BS degrees, and lived at home. Total tuition, books, loan fees and loan interest for each of the four was around $23,000, less tax credits of $8,000, which left $15,000 each, which hubby and I expect to finish paying off next year at $250 per month for each daughter. Law School is on their dime and debt. By being frugal they expect to have student debt below $50,000 each, which is far below the norm. Here again the tax credit benefits may be greater for you and hubby, than those available to ex as some of those tax credits can only be used against tax due. Obviously, the parent who can maximize this benefit should be the person using the daughters tax exemption. My point here is that due to the constraints of finances your daughter and son may have to go to community college and local state university. And that may require her living with you because of the locality of community college and local state university. To make room for her, you may have to do as we did and convert the garage into an extra bedroom.

Sixth, our two couples did not get “real jobs” until after HS because they earned around $14 per hour hustling around the neighborhood pushing lawnmowers, weed eaters, hedge trimmers. Daughters would knock on doors, tell the folks how they were earning money for college, ask for work. (It would not have surprised me if they had told the person at the door that they were orphans working to keep food on the table at the orphanage. Or maybe money to pay for their non-existent little brothers transplant surgery. LOL Yes, they are capable of that. LOL) Also, “real jobs” are not readily available to kids 13, 14, 15, and even 16 and 17. Once this mowing income happened, they kind of dropped out of the lower paying babysitting business. This mowing may be available where your daughter lives also and it can be done midweek. And babysitting can also make reasonable wages and should not be looked down on. As others posted, cleaning, dog walking, dog care, pool service, maid service. There are kids who make good money with their arts and crafts skills. Others paint rooms on the cheap; a skill that most can quickly develop. Go to the local library and look for books on home based businesses. There may even be one on home based businesses for teens.

Seventh, most teens want the Corvette of computers, when all they really need is public transportation. In our household we have six laptops for the six adults—all costing under $500, with four of them below $300 including sales tax. Same with cell phones, hubby has one that work provides, each of our two couples has a smart phone provided by work, the other three cell phones are literally $10 dumb phones with “H20 wireless now” service costing $100 per year for 2000 minutes per year and the unused minutes roll over to the next year. And you need no insurance on a $10 phone. The H20 sim cards work on the ATT pay go phones and the service is on the ATT system. And the home phones are all wireless magic jacks costing $20 per year for service with long distance included. Actually less expensive because we paid $65 for five years extra service and the $5 to insure the device for those extra five years.

A trilogy of books that I found helpful in living well with less cash out the door were “The Tightwad Gazette I, II, and III” by Amy Dacyczyn, published later in a single volume. The library may have these also.

Unlike me, some of the ladies here actually enjoy working, like Musiclover and Sabrtooth (LOL). For me, if it was not for our dire finantcial need of income or if I could sell my body on the streets, I would not work. (LOL) But my desirable days for on your back type work are long past and we do need the money to make things work. And therein is the reason that I went back to work a decade ago. What is different now from the fifties and the decades before is that we all want more, expect more, and demand more. No longer is one family vehicle enough, no longer are we content to live in 900 square foot homes with a single bathroom, no dishwasher, no microwave, no den, swamp cooler instead of AC that costs much more to maintain and electrify, one TV and no cable bill, most homes had a single phone if that, washing machines were a luxury and the dryer was a line in the backyard to hand things on to dry in the sun and wind, computers and cell phones were fantasy, few families drove across the country on vacation, no Disneyland or WDW existed, they were an orange grove and a swamp, few kids went on to college after HS, the work week was usually six days a week, retirement funds were unnecessary because the average life expectancy was like 65, look at the headstones in the old family cemetary. And those poor souls considered what we would consider to be a wretched life of depravity to be, “The American Dream.” LOL In seventy years they will be thinking the same about how we live today. With humor and kindness, my point is:

Unless you think your son might burn down the house, it may be time to consider returning to the work force. But knowing not all the facts, it may be that there are issues that make this suggestion unadvisable.

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Fri, 10-11-2013 - 12:07pm

Those are good points, Musiclover.  As a divorce attorney, I'm sure you've seen all the different ways this can play out.

I guess the real point of all this is that parenting demands a lot of flexibility and sensitivity to changing situations - and they are always changing.  Yes, older kids are WAY more expensive than younger ones - that doesn't mean that they should have to pay their own way in life.  We bring them into the world, we're responsible for supplying their needs, which include a social life, fitting in, developing their talents, etc.  Personally I would not encourage any kid to think that they can save up enough to buy a car - they are very expensive, and maybe that money should be going to a college education.  Focusing on "how can I get a car" may keep a teen from striving for the bigger things, such as going to the best college that will accept them and that they can afford.  In the long run, a college education is worth far more, financially and professionally, than an after-school job.  Not to say you can't have both, but I would far rather see my child spending her time outside school studying and participating in extracurricular activities that will give her the best possible shot at college than working at H&M or the bagel shop.  (Obviously - that's what I *have* done, twice so far.)

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Fri, 10-11-2013 - 11:15am

You have to be careful about this:

"I would not mortgage my retirement, nor would I put myself in the poorhouse to finance whims, but I would not feel the need to turn our few moments together into "teachable" moments, even if she was a spoiled brat, because I would consider that to be partly MY fault, for not having been a day in, day out, presence in her life." 

There are a lot of parents (usually dads because they tend not to have physical custody) who "make up for" not being the custodial parent by buying the kid a lot of THINGS.  Many times the custodial parent has to be the one who cant' afford to buy all the stuff and has to be the rule enforcer, the one who makes the kid do homework and chores while the NCP  gets to be the fun Disney dad.  I don't think there is anything wrong with having a child clean up after herself, help with making dinner or dust while she is there just because those things have to be done.  I would think it would be odd if the kid is only there are few days a month to have those days filled with chores.

It's particularly tough when you have a kid who doesn't live with you & one who does and there is a disparity in treatment, whether real or perceived.  I do agree that when the kids' expenses increase, then sometimes the former SAHM might need to get a job, even part time.  I'm middle aged so it was not that common for everybody's mom to work when I was a kid, but my mother went back to work after my younger brother was in school, because otherwise, I don't think my parents could have helped us with college.  No teenagers in my circle had their own cars in those days.

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Fri, 10-11-2013 - 12:20am
Also, if my new spouse was unable, or unwilling, to provide for *my* child, *I* would do so myself. Of course, I have worked my entire life, helping my husband support our family, regardless of the amount of HIS income, because I believe that is the fair and sensible thing to do.
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Fri, 10-11-2013 - 12:01am

I will not reiterate the advice you have gotten so far, since my position mirrors much of what you've already been told. 

I will offer a few thoughts.  When you post on a PUBLIC forum, asking for advice, you should NOT be surprised, or offended, by what you get.  That is the value of a public forum.  People see things you are blind to, and point them out.  The Emperor is not wearing any clothes.  If you cannot tolerate that, if the only opinion you are interested in hearing is your own, then one questions WHY you bothered to post.

What you do to, and with your children, is entirely up to you.  For myself, providing "travel expenses" for my DAUGHTER to visit me a few weekends a month, and on school breaks, would NOT be "in lieu of" child support.  For me, SUPPORT does not equal a bus ticket, or even a plane ticket.

Buying things for a 15 year DOES get a "bit costly".  They are, after all, not 5 anymore.  For myself, this is something I would have planned for.   If I saw my child only a few weekends a month, and on school breaks, it would be VERY important to me that the money I spent on her during those few days, would in some way make up for the fact that I did NOT spend money on her daily, in small and unimportant ways that nonetheless say "I love you".  No pumpkin spice lattes an the way to school.  No ice cream cones on the way home.  No gossip mags while waiting in line at the grocery.  No purple nail polish, just because.

I would not mortgage my retirement, nor would I put myself in the poorhouse to finance whims, but I would not feel the need to turn our few moments together into "teachable" moments, even if she was a spoiled brat, because I would consider that to be partly MY fault, for not having been a day in, day out, presence in her life. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-09-2013
Thu, 10-10-2013 - 9:21pm

Wow! Thank you to those with some honest suggestions...it is nice to get other parents perspectives. Did not really think I would be ridiculed for my custody situation. I could have easily added in two or three more lengthy paragraphs to describe why our mutual custody arrangement is a bit out of the norm but that depth of information is really irrelivant.  I will take the positive feedback and put it to a plan and pray for those who felt it was more important to be judgemental on a situation they know nothing about. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Thu, 10-10-2013 - 7:39pm

I interpreted that phrase differently.. more along the line of complaining that the dad does not have to spend that much money to take care of thr teen. And he gets to claim her on his income tax.  In order words, teen girls don't eat a lot, not that dad is not providing even food for her.

If the child is being abused (i.e. not being provided with enough food), mom should be looking for a job and taking her ex to court for custody.

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Thu, 10-10-2013 - 1:45pm

The same thought crossed my mind, Musiclover.  Little bro gets a SAHM and everything he needs, while big sis doesn't get child support and eats "what little food they have" - it sounds really strange to me.  My friend recently got divorced with joint custody of the kids; her ex was a SAH parent and was required by the agreement to get a job even though he *was* a SAHD and my friend pays child support. 

I also can't imagine ANY scenario in which my kids were treated so unequally that one of them is living with food insecurity, but I hope I am misreading the situation the OP described. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Thu, 10-10-2013 - 1:22pm

I'm not going to address the money issue, because I think others have given you great advice. However, I will address the chore issue. Why is it okay not to ask her to do chores (whether or not you pay for them) just because she spends so little time with you? Isn't she a full member of the family? And as a full member, why does she get to be a guest? When she's in your house, she should feel at home enough to wash the dishes and take out the trash.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 10-10-2013 - 1:04pm

I think it's difficult in a divorce situation where the child does not spend all the time with you.  I am looking at it from the reverse point of view.  My kids were with me most of the time, but spent EO weekend and maybe 2 nights a week w/ dad (sometimes he just took them out to dinner during the week).  The difference was that he paid child support so normally I would buy their necessities.  Occasionally he would pay for extra things, like sports.  I think it's unusual that you are not paying child support.  I think paying for travel expenses normally would not cover child support when the child is only 2 hours away--how does she get to your house?  Do you pick her up or does she take a bus?  I also think that most non custodial parents do not have the luxury of choosing not to work when the court would tell them they have an equal responsibility to support their child.  however, the fact that you provide health insurance would definitely be taken into consideration (although you would have to have a family plan for your current family situation anyway), and you do pay for the cell phone.  Instead of a car, I would be more concerned with the fact that when she is with her dad she might not have enough food to eat.  If that is truly the situation, I would think that maybe paying some child support would be more important than buying her a car.  I am looking at this from the POV of a divorce lawyer.  Normally parents do not get out of paying child support unless there is a 50-50 split and even then the parent who earns more money still might have to pay some c.s., although not the full amount.

I think that it's good that she does some chores while at your house like cleaning up after herself but like you said you don't want all her time with you to be consumed with doing chores--she might decide that it's not worthwhile to spend that much time there.  I never really gave my kids an allowance.  They did chores because I asked.  When my son was too young to work, I'd give him $20 for mowing the lawn, but basically it's just that I hate mowing the lawn and I know it's a hard job.  He does his laundry because he needs clean clothes--I don't pay him for that or for the usual things that he does like cleaning his room or helping with the dishes.  When my kids were 16 they got jobs because car insurance for teens is very expensive.  My mom gave both of them used cars--if she had not, they would not have had cars because I just don't have that much extra money.  They would have survived w/o a car.  I don't know what it's like where you are but we aren't in a town where every teenager gets their own car.  Also where I live, it's almost impossible for a 15 yr old to get a real job--they can do babysitting, dog walking or other things they can think of on their own but it's even hard for a 16 yr old to get a job.  A lot of places wont' hire anyone under 18 so the thought that she could actually get a job at 15 might not even be true.  What I think is important is that if you & your DH can't afford to buy her a car, then you tell her so.  Not everybody gets everything they want and that's a good lesson to learn.  If she did chores for you, then it's still your money.  If she got a part time job, she'd be lucky to earn $100/week--it would take quite a while to buy a car with that and maybe she needs to spend the money on clothes & activities as well if her dad doesn't have much money.  What I think would be really bad though is if you didn't buy her a car and then bought little brother one.