Whenever my daughter Tawra talks about how to live frugally, she can always count on one type of feedback — from people who say, “You don’t understand what it’s like. You have young children and not teenagers. Teenagers cost more!” Most of the advice and tips that Tawra shares come from me. I have raised two teenagers on a very minimal income. My main goal in raising my children was to teach them to become responsible and productive adults. By the time they hit their teen years, they were contributing to the household income, not depleting it.
I have never understood why people always say “wait until you have teenagers”. I waited and the huge cost that I had heard about never materialized.
My house payment was the same when I had babies as it was when I had teenagers. If the house payment changes, it’s not because of the age of the children but because we want a house that we think is better than the one we already have.
My utilities didn’t increase because I had teenagers. If anything they went down, because instead of having to fill a big tub full of water to give my little ones a bath, I taught my teens to take a quick shower, which used less water. I didn’t do as much laundry because I no longer had to wash diapers. Even when I used disposables, I still had to change my babies and toddlers clothes several times a day because they spit up on them, spilled things on them or had potty training accidents. If you have had a teenage boy, you know that until he got his first girlfriend, he would have worn the same clothes day and night if you’d let him!
I admit that I spent a little more on food, but even in that case it wasn’t so much more that it led me to financial ruin the way some people make it seem. When my granddaughter was born, my daughter spent more for her special formula then I spent on food for my teenage son!
As far as clothes go, I didn’t find teenagers much more expensive than young children. The cost for disposable diapers really adds up and since babies and young children grow quickly, you have to buy them an entire new wardrobe every 3-6 months. Once teenagers reach high school, they have pretty much stopped growing so quickly and many teenagers don’t wear their clothes out as quickly as young children.
I can hear someone protesting, “…but teens need to have special clothes so they can be like their peers!” I could write a whole book on this point alone, but let me just give you a few hints and ideas. First, you don’t have to spend a lot to dress nicely. There are garage sales, second hand stores and hand me downs. If you aren’t a snob about wearing second hand clothes, your kids won’t be either.
Make your teens feel loved and secure at home. You’ll find that even though the way they dress and look is still important, it won’t become the be-all and end-all of everything! Not only that, if they feel loved at home, it will go a long way toward keeping them out of the trouble so many parents dread.
I provided my children with the basics in their wardrobe. A pair of tennis shoes, dress shoes, three or four pairs of jeans, two pairs of dress pants, pajamas and some shirts. For anything else they wanted to have, or if they wanted to “upgrade”, they paid for those items themselves. They had to work for the extras by babysitting, doing yard work and finding other ways to get a little spending money. By age fifteen, my daughter was working part time at a hospital flower shop two evenings a week.
People often fear that working will negatively affect their kids’ grades. It won’t. Teenagers have more time and energy then they know what to do with. Why do you think drugs, drinking and the lazy party attitude is so rampant among teens? I’m not saying that they should work 40 hours a week, but a part-time job doesn’t hurt anything and it teaches responsibility! Generations past understood this, and expected their teens to work. They knew that it would prepare them for responsible adulthood. Recent generations haven’t taught this, which is why so many adult children mooch off of their parents.
When a child is born, we give him everything he needs or wants every time he cries. When he’s a toddler, we wouldn’t dream of giving him chocolate for every meal, even though he cries for it. Yet when teenagers whine and complain for something that they want, many people just buy it for them, instead of letting them work for it.
What an injustice we do our children when we give up the opportunity to teach them because we are tired of hearing their complaints and challenges. Instead of using their last years living with us to teach them to be responsible, productive, hard workers, we often teach them to be dependent. I know a good education can help a person get a good job, but that education is of no use in a job if the person isn’t a responsible, productive, hard worker with some kind of experience.
In the same way we teach a baby to go from milk to soft food to solid food we need to help our children to build up their “life’s muscles” concerning finances gradually. By the time the kids are teenagers, that will require some “heavy lifting” on your part. How wrong parents are to give their children everything they ask for. If you do, you will be wondering why your grown child won’t move out, why he can’t hold down a job and why he is such a poor money manager.
Incidentally, my teenagers graduated with As, my daughter received a scholarship to a university in Sweden and my son went to school to learn drafting. They are now very responsible, independent, productive adults and parents. Teenagers don’t have to cost more than small children if you are wise in the way you raise and teach them.
Update: This was written when I had little kids. I now have 2 teens. Do they cost more? No. My son has a job and is paying for his gas to go to work. They pay for their own cell phones, computers and any other “fun” gadgets they want. (no a cell phone is NOT a necessity for a teen. :-) ) We pay for the gas for them to go to school because it’s 30 miles a way. We do give them money now and then to do something fun with their friends but as a general rule really they aren’t costing any more. So in case you were wondering if I had changed my views on this now that I have teens, nope they really don’t cost more.
Your are spot on with bringing up children, most parents just jump to the wimps
of the kids.
Your article is well written, and good example.
And young parents, this start right from the beginning.
The expense that went up for our family was shoes.
Both my sons take a size 13 so it always meant a trip to the city to find a pair for each of them. We always had to go to the sports shops which are more expensive and buy the brand names to get the size.
We live in a small town and name brands didn’t mean that much here. So we bought jeans and t shirts which was the going style.
Luckily my sons hated the trends of pants that don’t cover your butt and they were pretty conservative in their clothes. I think they liked the t shirts because they stuffed into drawers and didn’t need to be hung up but what the heck.
Car insurance went up since we always had 2 cars out of necessity and when our eldest got his license he was listed as a driver for when even when we explained he wasn’t. It was the law so we bit the bullet and $100 a month more in insurance.
But even those expenses were not a strain and I wouldn’t get rid of either of them for it.
but no teens are not that expensive so keep them around. They can reach the high shelves when you can’t.
Driver’s education is great for reducing the insurance bill by ten percent for three years. I think that adults who take the defensive driving course saves ten percent on their insurance, too. Ask your agent about other discounts that are available, like bundling home/renters insurance with the car insurance. You may be surprised. We have a discount for having automated payments to the insurance company!
When my son was turning 13 he asked me to go for a walk with him. He said, “Mom, parents freak out when we turn into teens, they think that we will be monsters, that we will be expensive, that we will somehow change from being the children that you could deal with into expensive brats that drive you crazy.” He then went on to say that firstly, “you get back what you expect” and then he said “if parents are afriad, think about what we have to be scared of, we will change from the children we are today and in 6 short years will become independent adults, what will change for you in 6 years? You will be 6 years older” blew me away. My kids are both teens and they cost the same as they did when they were babies. Instead of diapers, we now have insurance, we spend wisely on food and I haven’t noticed too much of a change there. My kids were raised on priciples and not on what the rest of the world says is “cool”, actually my kids love that they are free to wear what they choose from the choices that they are given. Parenting is like a box. When children are born the box is tiny with only enough room for them to stretch just a little bit, as they age, the box gets bigger until they are still in the box, its just that they cannot see its borders any more. Just my experience!
Are teenagers more expensive? No. We take care of their needs; they take care of their wants. I sure get more work out a teenager than I do out of a toddler! Would I send a toddler up on the roof to seal it? or to mow the lawn? No! Do I have to pay for a babysitter? No! They ARE my babysitters! They can cook meals, they can clean, they can do their share of the house chores.
They can be an asset if that is how you trained them.
Every thing you shared is essential to helping our children reach adulthood. Home cooked meals, gardening, second hand where possible (unless you have two with 13-14 size feet), taking care of OUR home. I look at 13 years as early adult hood. I’m so happy for this stage.
I disagree with teenagers contributing money to the household & working while in high school. Their job is to be a student. I came from a dysfunctional home, adopted from an orphanage into a family who never should been allowed to adopt.
At 14 I was working, on my feet 10 to 12 hours a day at a beauty shop on Saturday for $1.00 an hour plus tips. No sitting allowed except for my 30 minute lunch break. I had to work because my adopted mother controlled the finances & she did not but me school clothes or provide for any of my other needs. I was on my own at 19 with no life skills, a high school education, no car & trying to pay rent in an expensive city. I froze starved, & had no assistance from the adopted parents.
My 19 year old is in college & didn’t work until after high school. My son found a full time job after high school, he’s been employed there for 3 years, got promoted, & has over $4000 in the bank.
I encouraged my children to live at home & save their money. My daughter isn’t working while in college. She’s on the right path, so I bought her a used car, I pay the insurance & give her gas money every week.
I never had a problem with my kids being on drugs or having too much time on their hands & getting into trouble.
I’m sure that coming from an abusive household formed the way I do things, as I never wanted my children to suffer as I did.
This is like anything else there is a happy medium. We aren’t talking about what you went through because that is over the top but when done the right way a job can give kids self confidence, a sense of independence and can help them feel good by giving. You can deprive kids of being able to give and share by not allowing them to sometimes give in the family.
My grand kids are so proud and love being able to take money they earned themselves and buy gifts and things for say mom for mother’s day or Christmas gifts for their family. I remember when my son got his first money. We didn’t have much money at all at the time and never went out but the one or two times we did for a special occasion I would only order water because I couldn’t afford a drink. Anyway when my son got his first money he took me out for Mother’s Day and paid for it himself. I remember so well him puffing up his little chest and saying mom you order a drink because I am paying for it. He was so proud to be able to do that for me.
So like I said your situation was extreme and even good things done to an extreme in either direction usually doesn’t turn out good.
My parents were above middle class, but @ 15 they told me I had to get a job to learn responsibility. I worked at a grocery store PT and maintained my grades and extra curicular activities. If I wasn’t working I am quite sure I would’ve used those windows of open time to get in trouble, as that was what I’d been doing before working. My parents bought my necesites, but make up, mad money & such came from my check.
Flash forward: my 21 y/o son, did not work, he had ADHD and struggled through school, he is still struggling as an adult.
My 16 y/o son is looking for a job and has been shoveling snow, raking leaves and other jobs for money since he was 12.
I started babysitting on Friday and Saturday nights as well as the child came home from school. I banked the money and saved for a bicycle and radio/cassette player. I am so glad that I was made to work, I also used the money to go to carnivals/festivals, to use on vacation, etc. Have the teens take a babysitting course either at the high school or an outside location, and let them get some opportunities. My brother had a paper route and earned his money for things he wanted. Our parents bought us what we needed. We also helped in the garden with planting and harvesting and we raked leaves as a part of our contribution to the household.