I was recently chatting with a colleague who has 3 teenagers and she enlightened me that she spends a considerable amount of money on gas…not for herself (she bikes to work), but for her teen daughter!

Of course, the idea of who should pay for things spills over into other areas.  If a teen wants the latest fashion design, or really wants to see a movie with friends, who pays for it?  When should a teen be expected to earn money for things beyond the basic needs of food, shelter, and school supplies?

This is tough. Teens are balancing school work, social lives, extracurricular activities, and family.  Should they be expected to earn money for extras on top of all of this? After all, teens are not adults yet, but they’re not young children either. Well, I think it’s up to the family to decide, but there are definite benefits to having the expectation that your teen will contribute to their spending expenses.

Having a job or earning an allowance teaches work ethic and also how to save: money doesn’t grow on trees. I don’t expect my bills to be paid automatically, or to get that great new pair of boots from Nordstrom’s for free. I know I’ll have to work to earn the things I want and need. Now of course, it is not reasonable to expect a teen to earn enough to pay all of their expenses, but if they have an item they really want (like a new cell phone, or a pair of skinny jeans) developing a savings plan for being able to buy that item is a great way to learn how to manage money. For bigger items, like a car, it may be reasonable for parents to purchase it, but consider expecting your teen to pay for gas, insurance, and oil changes.

So the next time your teen asks for gas money, talk with them about how they can earn money for the things that are not necessities. If they’re interested in obtaining a job, discuss your expectations around school work, extracurricular activities and balancing the commitment to an employer.

What experiences have our readers had with this topic?  We welcome comments!