Do you have your teen on a back-to-school budget?

Ugh. Back-to-school shopping with teenagers. What a nightmare!

I’ve been trying to figure out the best approach to shopping without feeling like I’ve just become the major stockholder in American Eagle Outfitters. The way I see it there are a few different strategies — let your teens blow as much as they want on back to school and call it a day, give your kids a set amount to spend and let them figure out how to allocate it, or take inventory and buy only those items needed. Of course, there’s also the buy nothing approach and let them wear clothes that are too small (seems like some teen girls already use this strategy!)

Some friends of my friends give their kids allowance throughout the year and make their kids buy all their new clothing with their own money. I’ve never tried it but if you have, let me know if it works.

This year,  I went through closets, made a list and went to the mall. The only problem was my teens and I had a very different idea of how much a pair of jeans should cost. Me: “Why spend $60 on jeans when these jeans from Target fit you so amazingly?” My daughter: “You’re kidding, right? I know what you’re doing…”

Turns out teens and parents see shopping VERY differently. Capital One Financial Corporation did research and found that parent and teens mostly agree on which items they need to buy for the new school year, but they have very different expectations on how much they’ll be spending on back-to-school purchases. Us parents are WAY more realistic about what stuff costs. Only 41 percent of teens expect their parents will spend more than $100 on back-to-school shopping, compared to 68 percent of parents who expect to spend over $100.

Then there’s the battle over needs and wants. Over half (57%) of parents surveyed by Capital One say that they have discussed the difference between needs and wants with their teen. Yet only one-quarter (26%) of teens report that they have discussed the difference between needs and wants with their parents. I’m going to admit, I’ve had this discussion many times with my teens.  Just last week my daughter told me she needs a thong bikini from Victoria Secret. “It’s the only thing I can possibly wear to school under my white shorts,” she tells me. My quick response:  “That’s a want!”

I thought I’d share tips from Capital One for how to teach their teens good money management skills:

  • Make back-to-school shopping a family affair – It’s a great opportunity for teens to learn valuable hands-on lessons from their parents.
  • Do your homework – Talk to teachers in advance and try to get a list of required school supplies so you can buy in advance (maybe even on sale.)
  • Crunch numbers together – establish a budget – Determine how much you’re able to spend in advance and stick to the amount.
  • Consider having your child contribute – Capital One’s survey suggests that many teens are prepared to help pay for back-to-school shopping. Discuss how much they may contribute and work it into the budget you develop.
  • Make a list – Prepare your shopping list in advance. Try to distinguish between “needs” and “wants” on the list and prioritize the needs first.
  • Shop smart – Make sure you shop around for the best price and the best quality and use coupons when possible. Even if you don’t plan to shop online, encourage your teen to look at prices online to see how they fit with the budget before you head to the store.

Readers, I’d love to hear how you handle back-to-school shopping? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?


About raisingteensblogger

I'm a crazed mother of three, Journalist, PTA volunteer. I aspire to be as cool as Kelly Ripa, as fit as Gwyenth Paltrow and as carefree as Lucille Ball.
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3 Responses to Do you have your teen on a back-to-school budget?

  1. I’m still trying to teach myself the difference between needs and wants!

  2. heather says:

    I have to say..this issue starts WAY before the teen years start. From day 1 my kids have been seeing me purchase their clothing on ebay, and yes…they are used. We’ve also had lots of talks about how wearing name brand clothing means you’re advertising for a company without them paying you for it. My kids have all decided that anything with a label is not for them. Oh…and we never even stepped foot into a name brand/mall store. When it is school shopping time we both sit down and look at what they need…and purchase accordingly – yes, there may be a want or two tossed in their – but the kids keep in mind the cost. This year, my teen spent a whopping $30 on back to school clothes when he went shopping with his friends.

  3. Heather,

    That’s pretty amazing that he spent only $30. You’ve inspired me to do future shopping on Ebay.


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