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December 27, 2014

It's never too early to start teens on a budget

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Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 3:45 am, Thu Aug 14, 2014.

(BPT) - At some point, everyone will have to learn how to live on a budget, whether it’s at home, at work or with a nonprofit organization. For teenagers with a limited income and plenty of interests that cost money, learning to manage a budget can never come too early.

Money management is a necessary skill, and learning how to apply good management skills to a set budget at an early age can help teens grow into responsible adults. To help teens develop these financial skills, parents should work with their children to set a budget limit, create a list of wants and a list of needs, and look for ways expenses could be reduced. The following five tips provide some ways to help a teen live within a budget.

1. Identifying technological wants and needs. It seems everyone has a smartphone these days, and teens often think they can survive only with the latest and greatest in cellphone technology. However, the cost of the device and service plans quickly adds up. Discuss with your teen how the phone will be used, and find out if they are willing to reduce expenses to save money on cellphone technology.

One way teens can keep this area of the budget under control is with Straight Talk Wireless. For only $45 a month, Straight Talk offers unlimited nationwide, talk, text and data – all without a contract or credit check, and with 4GLTE nationwide coverage on America’s largest and most dependable networks. Or, with the “Bring Your Own Phone” option, you can even give your teen your old smartphone and switch to Straight Talk service without having to buy a new phone. Parents will also be interested in the new Safe Driver Car Connection available through Straight Talk, which blocks texting while the teen is driving, tracks the vehicle in real time and monitors their driving behaviors.

2. Create a spending journal. Teenagers can keep a journal for one week on every item purchased during that week, as well as the item’s price. Once the information has been collected, divide it all into categories. How many of the purchases were needs and how many were wants? How many of the purchases were immediately consumed, and how many lasted for a couple of hours or days? This information will give the teenager valuable insight into his shopping habits and patterns, allowing him to better identify where his money is going each week.

3. Develop a spending strategy. In some families, a teenager may receive an allowance designated for specific categories like transportation or clothing, for example. And in some families, teens are expected to work to earn the spending money they’ll use to pay for fun and those needed items. As the budget is being established, parents and teens should have a discussion about what parents will cover and what teens are expected to cover. This helps teens establish a spending strategy that will not overlap with funds already provided by parents.

4. Make a wish list. Wish lists can help teens set goals for what they will save their money to purchase, and they also give family members excellent ideas for holiday and birthday presents. Establishing savings goals early will help teens work toward purchasing that first car, their first house or something else that is very important. Parents should encourage their teens to price check their wish list as well, so they know how much they’ll need to save before they are able to purchase an item on the list.

5. Set up a savings fund. In relation to the wish list, teens should establish a savings fund. A discussion between parents and teens should be on how much money is put into the savings fund each week, when and for what reasons money can be withdrawn from the fund, and what the teen plans to use the fund for. For example, is it only to purchase items on the wish list, or is the teen looking ahead and saving for college expenses or rent for when they move out?

Budgeting and wise money-spending skills will serve your teen well for the rest of his or her lifetime. It’s never too early to start teaching these lessons, so be sure to sit your teen down for a financial discussion today.

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