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Spending for Teens

Learn how to spend your money wisely to budget, save, and still afford all the fun things you want.


Teen life is expensive. There’s shopping with friends, mini-golf with the cute new neighbor (who’s only a friend), and snacks after school. 

Before you know it, it all adds up! And if there’s one thing you know by now is that your parents aren’t made of money. If you had a penny for every time you’ve heard that one, spending wouldn’t be an issue! But it doesn’t have to be.

We’re not saying that it’s all gonna be OK, even if you splurge all your allowance on bubble tea. That’s not how it works. But if you figure out a way to stay organized and creative about how you spend, you’ll be able to stretch your dollars.

We’ll show you some useful tips and share some good ideas on how you can make your money last longer without spending all your Friday nights at home. And if you make smart spending a habit, you could end up pretty wealthy one day. But guess what? You’ll probably still tell your own kids that you’re not made of money.

Why Teens Need to Budget

Most people don’t like the word budget. As soon as they hear it, they cringe. In our book, though, that’s the quickest way to end up broke before the end of the week.

The sooner you learn how to budget your money, the better choices you’ll make in your financial life. Why? Because a budget helps you realize that some things are more important to you than others.

Let’s say your parents go out of town for the weekend and leave you with $100. But you need to make that money last for a few days. You’re probably not gonna run and spend it at the mall, right? That would be silly when you have great clothes in your closet.

A smarter way to spend that money would be on food and transportation. You’d probably also want to set some aside in case of an emergency.

That’s it! You just learned how to budget. It’s all about deciding what matters most to you and how much you want to spend on those things. As you can see, budgeting isn’t that difficult. The tough part, TBH, is sticking to the plan.

How to Develop Smart Spending Habits

The road to financial success can feel long. And there are a lot of detours along the way. But there are also lots of hacks to make it easier. These are a few of our favorite tips to help you learn how to manage your money while you’re still young.

Set Meaningful Goals

The most important part of budgeting is figuring out what’s important to you. Once you’ve decided what matters most, it’s easy to choose how much you’ll spend on things.

For example, if you want to buy a car by the time you’re 16 (and your parents are OK with that), you need to start saving. So, next time your friend wants to hit the bowling alley, you may decide to pass. It’s not that you don’t wanna hang. It’s that those $50 could get you that much closer to your new wheels.

Make Compromises

Having a budget doesn’t mean that you’ll pass on all the fun. It just means that you have to get creative. 

Instead of meeting your friends at the pizza shop and then hitting the movie theater, you might wanna invite them over to your place. You can grab some frozen pizzas at the grocery store and stream a movie on Netflix. It’s just as fun and way cheaper.

Reward Yourself

It might seem contradictory, but focusing too much on your budget can also backfire. At times, it can start to feel like a chore. And nobody likes that feeling.

To keep yourself motivated, try rewarding yourself now and then. You can even plan ahead of time and work it into your budget, so you have something to look forward to. Need some ideas on how to treat yourself without breaking the bank? Check these out:

  • Have a picnic at the park. Get some yummy snacks and meet up with your friends for some fun lawn games.
  • Buy yourself a special treat. Decide how much you want to spend ahead of time and challenge yourself to find something awesome without going over budget.
  • Get a disposable camera and have a photo shoot with your pals.
  • Hit the thrift store and find some cool vintage records to play at home.
  • Get a new phone case. It’s a great way to feel like you have a new phone, for a fraction of the cost.

Experiment with Different Budgeting Methods

The great thing about being a teen is that you still don’t have many financial obligations. This freedom means that you can try different budgeting techniques and find the one that works for you. Once you’ve found a method that inspires you, it’s easier to feel excited about budgeting.

Some of the most popular budgeting systems include:

  • Pay Yourself First: If you have a clear savings goal, this is a good one for you. It literally means you put money in your savings account before anything else. Then, you decide how you’ll spend the rest of your money.
  • Zero-Based Budgeting: This one’s best for big spenders. If you plan how you’ll use every dollar in your account, you’ll be less tempted to spend on unimportant things. The great thing about this one is that you can include anything in your budget. As long as you plan ahead of time.
  • 50/30/20 Rule: This strategy breaks your money up by percentages. The rule is that 50% of your income should cover your needs, 30% is for your wants, and 20% is for savings. Stick to the percentages and you’ll manage your money wisely.

Use Apps

This tip isn’t an excuse to spend more time on your phone. It’s using technology to keep track of your spending habits. There are lots of budgeting apps out there that help you do this.

Once you’ve monitored your spending for a couple of months, you can better understand where you’re slacking and where you’re doing well. This monitoring helps you adjust your budget and keep a close eye on the places where you need more discipline.

Get a Job!

When you know how hard it is to earn money, you immediately become smarter about how you spend it. And these days, there are tons of ways for teens to make money.

With your parents’ permission, you can look for a summer or a part-time job near home. Many businesses hire teenagers and are willing to work around your schedule.

If that’s not an option, you can also find gigs or start your own business. Take a look at these ideas:

  • Sell crafts or used clothes online
  • Manage the social media account for a local business
  • Babysit your younger family members
  • Referee kids’ sports leagues
  • Mow your neighbor’s lawn

The Role Your Parents Play in Spending Your Own Money

If you have questions about how to spend your money, you can always ask your parents. They may be able to help out or point you in the right direction. But, at the end of the day, you’re the one who’s responsible for your money.

The great news is that everybody messes up sometimes — even adults. If you blow your budget in one day, you have to learn from your mistakes. It’s part of learning how to spend responsibly.

Spending Lingo

Learning some basic terms will help you in your financial journey. These are some important words to understand if you want to get good at budgeting and smart about spending:

  • Fixed Expenses: These are costs that don’t change from one month to the next. For example, your car payment or rent.
  • Variable Expenses: Costs that aren’t always the same. Like your gas or your groceries.
  • Opportunity Cost: What you give up when you choose something else. Buying something is always a trade off, because you could’ve used the money for something else. That next best choice is your opportunity cost.
  • Financial Planning: Creating a plan for how you’ll spend and invest your money.

Best Books About Spending for Teens

Staying on top of your money is a great habit. With these books in your home library, you’ll learn more tips and become better at managing your money. If you want more book recommendations, check out our complete list of money books for teens.

Most Entertaining

The author of I Want More Pizza understands that one slice is never enough! In this easy-to-read book, you’ll get great lessons on how to budget your money and a solid understanding of how money works.

Not Just For Girls

Clever Girl Finance is more than just a book. It’s a whole platform that includes an excellent Insta account and fun TikTok videos packed with practical advice to manage your money and grow your wealth.

Comprehensive Money Guide

Go beyond budgeting basics with Smart Spending: The Teen’s Guide to Cash, Credit, and Life’s Costs. As the title suggests, it covers more than just managing money. This handy guide also talks about credit and what it costs to live life as an adult.

Learning how to manage your money now can save you many headaches as an adult. You should feel pretty proud of yourself for wanting to make good decisions and spend your money wisely. If you keep up the good habits, this could be the start of an extraordinary financial journey!

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About the Author

Lucia Caldera

Lucia Caldera is a writer who specializes in personal finance. Her goal is to create approachable content that sparks financial wellness and unlocks personal growth. Lucia's work reflects her passion for financial education as the key to reducing the wealth gap for future generations.

Last updated on: April 24, 2024