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How to Teach Teens the Value of Money

June 13, 2022

By

Jesse Baum

Much as we’d like, we can’t print money—that would be fraud! But sometimes it can feel like your teen thinks you can. At Copper we know that you work hard to instill good values in your kids, and that also means teaching your teens the value of money. It’s a task that might seem daunting—you want your kid to have their needs met, but to also understand that earning money is difficult, and that they shouldn’t take what they have for granted! So how do you teach your teen the value of a dollar? Here at Copper, we’ve assembled some tips to help you get started.

Give Your Kid an Allowance

Giving your teenager a weekly allowance can help them learn how to budget by giving them a fixed amount to spend each week. Remember that if your goal is to help teach your teen the value of money, if they run out of spending money for the week then they should have to wait until “payday” rolls around for their next installment. 

Using Copper’s banking app allows you to deposit your teen’s allowance into their account each week, and have it instantly available to them. With Copper’s debit card, they can also get a feel for using debit cards and tracking their spending online, and you can also monitor their spending habits.

Allow Your Teen to Get a Part-Time Job

Having a job even for one shift a week can teach your teen important skills. Jobs in retail and the service industry will show them what actually goes into working at restaurants and stores, something they may have only experienced on the other side of the register. 

Jobs allow young people to have money of their own and some independence, and can teach them about creating a resume, applying for jobs, working with people of different ages and backgrounds, and even possibly how to ask for a raise.

On top of that, they’ll learn how to multitask and a whole host of other transferable skills—for example, working in a kitchen means they’ll learn how to “clean as they go” and tidy up efficiently. 

Though it’s scary, giving your teen the freedom to get a part-time job will show them that you trust them, and will definitely instill the value of a dollar.

…Or Let Your Teen Get a Side Gig

There are a lot of ways for teens to earn money! Getting part-time gigs like babysitting, doing odd jobs, or even selling crafts, can be another great way for teens to earn money. These gigs will teach your teen about time management, and selling homemade products can help young people learn how to calculate material cost, and gross versus net profit.

22 Ways to Make Money Online (as a teen) Infographic

Teach Your Teen How to Calculate Cost in Terms of Time Worked

They say time is money, and under capitalism, this is true! For example, if your teen wants a new pair of shoes that cost $120, and they make $15 per hour babysitting, you can talk to them about how $120/15 means that the shoes also will cost them 8 hours of babysitting. If they babysit four hours each weekend, that’s two week’s worth of work—and they won’t have that money for snacks, movies, or other purchases like they usually do. 

You can also compare purchases. For instance, if tickets to an Olivia Rodrigo concert cost $45, and they usually spend $13 once a week or so on a burrito and a drink at their favorite hang, then the cost of the concert is a bit more than three trips to get food with their friends. Putting a bigger purchase in these terms can help them weigh the cost more accurately. 

Remember, the point isn’t to give them a lecture—be glad that your kid wants to open up to you about what they want! But you’ve also been around the block and can offer them some guidance.

Work with Your Teen to Start Budgeting, and Saving

It is never too soon to learn how to make a budget, and start trying to stick to it! Your teenager might find it helpful to use an app, a bullet journal, or Copper’s budget worksheet—the important thing is for them to start tracking how much they earn and spend, begin to save a little, and even start to invest or build credit. 

You might find it helpful to give them incentives for budgeting and saving. For instance, you could set goals with your kid that if they save 80 percent towards a $150 longboard, then you will give them the final 20 percent. Make it clear that you will only give that final $30, and that it is earmarked towards the longboard. 

You could also consider “matching” the money that your teen saves, whether that means depositing fifty cents or even a dollar for each dollar that they save. You could also match money they save towards a certain goal, like if they save $500 towards a car, then you will match it.

Copper also has tools right in the app that allows teens to create dedicated savings “buckets” for different savings goals. With these tools, they can stay motivated and hit their goals in no time!

Talk to Your Kid About Your Finances

This is a hard one for sure. However difficult money can be to talk about though, it serves no one to be vague about it.

Here are some financial topics to talk with your kids about: 

  • Savings techniques. Do you set goals, make a budget, or save a certain amount each paycheck? If so, explain how you do it and why it works for you
  • Types of bank accounts you have, any investments you have, and how they work
  • Comparing up-front costs to maintenance and replacement cost for items
  • Comparing unit costs of items at the supermarket
  • Spending decisions that require trade-offs in order to be affordable

The more your kid realizes that these are things that you do everyday, the more likely they are to start practicing these skills too, even if they don’t tell you about it. 

Final Thoughts on Teaching Your Teen the Value of Money

At the end of the day, teaching your kid the value of a dollar is the same as teaching them anything—they learn by watching you and listening to you (even when you think they aren’t!) By modeling your spending and saving habits, being transparent and helping them, especially when they ask for it, you’ll do a great job. Though it may seem like a formidable task, remember that you’re taking the time to be intentional about it, and that’s a great first step.

Author

Jesse Baum

Jesse Baum is a freelance contributor to Copper's blog, and lives in New Orleans. Jesse is also freelance reporter who covers stories related to education, labor, housing and environmental issues. Her goal is to make make money management simpler and more accessible to teens, and to make talking about money a little easier for teens and their parents.

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