What Do Teens Really Spend Their Money On?

ADVERTISEMENT:  According to our teen writers at Radical Parenting, the things our nation’s youth are spending money on won’t come as much of a surprise. They include such basics as clothing, music, movies, video games, electronics, restaurants, make-up and magazines.

Specialty items also top some teen spending lists. Among the items purchased by our teen writers multiple times each week are specialty coffees, accessories, virtual gifts on Facebook and online music videos. In fact, the total amount of money my teenage sister spends on coffee each year adds up to a semester’s worth of tuition at our local college!

Many parents forget to look at how their kids are spending and only focus on how much. For example, a family I work with gives their child $75 per month in allowance. They hand it over in cash, so once the allowance is given, it’s never seen again. The parents would occasionally ask their teen what he was spending it on, and he would reply “food” (which his parents provide him with) or “magazines” (which his parents never saw) or “movie tickets.” When we tried to talk with this family about budgeting and saving, we had very little to discuss because the parents, and even the teen, had no idea what he had been spending his allowance on. A few months later, his parents found drug paraphernalia in his drawer and realized he was spending a lot of the cash on illegal substances.

For this reason, I think it’s great if parents can give allowances on prepaid cards. This way parents and teens can track purchases and see how the card is being used. I like PASS from American Express because it also comes with Roadside Assistance—and if you have a teen who will be driving soon, this is essential.

I highly recommend that parents take a regular look at their teen’s budget and take note of the items their kids are buying. It’s good to train them early about the benefits of saving and the perils of overspending on luxury items or specialty goods. It’s also a good idea for parents to share their own budgets with their children; talking about the various items a household needs is a great way to teach teens to spend smart.

Vanessa Van Petten, teen author of the parenting book You’re Grounded!, writes RadicalParenting.com along with 120 teens, ages 12-19 to help adults get an honest view into the world and mind of youth. She wrote “You’re Grounded!” as a confused and grounded 16-year-old, to give her parents an open account of her world. Little did she know that this was only the beginning of helping all parents understand their kids. Van Petten graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emory University in May of 2007, the same month her book You’re Grounded! launched and was named in the “Top 5 Hottest Books” on Amazon its first month. Her site contains thousands of articles, videos, screencasts and live chats written by Van Petten, 82 teen writers and trendsetters from 34 different countries to offer adults a window into the daily lives of their teen and tween kids. Through her website she also runs a Teen Speakers Bureau, Youth and Parent Focus Groups,Private Social Networks for Parent and Teen Bloggers, and Webinar Series.

Vanessa’s Mission Statement: To improve parent-teen relationships by providing them with new perspectives, stories and neutral places to communicate. This will help families institute values and build strong relationships that promote healthy attitudes and lifestyle behaviors in this generation of young adults.




Disclaimer: Vanessa Van Petten is working with PASS from American Express on the launch of PASS; however, all content provided by Vanessa Van Petten, including financial tips, are opinions expressed by her alone and not those of American Express or iVillage. American Express and iVillage are not, and should not be relied upon to replace the services of, legal services providers, brokers, tax advisors or financial planners.
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