Why We Let Our Teenager Manage Our Budget
Guest post from Hope
My husband and I have been using (and sticking to) a written budget for our entire married life (24 years!) We have experienced the peace that comes from living debt-free — including our home — for many years.
We recently decided it was time to make finances and budgeting “real” for our 16-year-old son. So, we put him in charge of our family finances! That’s right. He took it over “lock, stock, and barrel!” and I think it’s been an experience that he will never forget.
If you’d like to get your teens more involved and aware of real-life finances, here are a few tips that helped us.
Give Them Credit
I admit, this has a dual meaning. We homeschool. So, it was natural for us to offer our son high school credit for his foray into the world of finances. But, I also mean, that I think we need to give our children credit for being mature enough to learn real world, life-long lessons by taking an in-depth look at our family’s money.
I did feel a bit sad that, somehow, I had taken away some of my son’s innocence by letting him know just how hard it can be to “make it” on one income. I wanted to be sure that he retained his feeling of security. We don’t want our children to worry that “Mom and Dad won’t have enough money”.
However, to my surprise, the opposite has occurred. He has seen, even more than before, the depth of our praise at seeing God meet our needs in amazing ways.
For instance, the budget for household items is essentially depleted for the year. Then, this week Kohl’s sent a $10 off voucher in the mail, allowing us to purchase four pillows on sale (with an additional 20% off coupon) for just over $2 out of pocket — for all four pillows! I think James was as excited as we were!
Give Them Tools
We began this process by enrolling our son in a free, six-week Biblical money course, which we attended with him. This gave him a lot of Biblically-based knowledge about money principles in a logical and sequential manner.
If you can’t find a seminar near you, check out Crown.org. You’ll find a lot of wonderful budgeting advice there along with charts, articles, and interactive tools.
I showed our son that if he began saving just $300 a month, at 5% interest, he could purchase a $120,000 home for cash at the end of 15 years. Then, we used the tools to see what a mortgage would cost on the same home at 5 percent interest for 15 years.
Give Them the Reins
Let them do it! After that six-week class, I opened up our finance books to our son. He can’t sign the checks, but when a bill comes in, he can tell me how to fill in the check (or make the transaction on-line) and enter the amount in the proper part of the ledger.
He enters all of our expenses into the ledger, keeps track of each category, makes a spread sheet at the end of each month showing what we spent in each category and what we have averaged thus far this year. He also makes recommendations on what changes we need to make in each category – if any.
Give Them a Goal
Our son’s final goal is to look at this year’s totals in each category and set up the family budget for next year. So we set January 1st as an end date.
A sense of completion is important and the end of the year always seems like a time to take a deep breath and say “thank you” to God for helping us and blessing us. So, January 1st, he’ll get his 1/2 a credit in “Consumer Economics”.
Then, he will make up our “end-of-the-year” log which displays our net worth, savings this year, what percentage of our income went to each category, a list of our current short, medium, and long-term goals, and write next year’s budget!
When we began this project, I knew I wanted our son to take the finance course for at least six months so he could see seasonal fluctuations I also was fairly confident that something unexpected would happen within that time frame — so he would get to see the emergency fund at work.
It did! He accidentally hit the garage door while I was teaching him to park in the driveway.
He is now so aware of how much money it takes to make it from one month to the next – and he is very proactive in helping us stay on target. He is also genuinely grateful any time we are able to give him something extra — not a needed item — but just something to bless him because he is our son and we love him.
He now knows first-hand where that money came from and how hard it is to stretch. Money has become a reality to him!
Hope is the stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of four wonderful boys and wife to Larry for 24 years. She resides in Central Illinois where she enjoys leading worship at church, teaching history for her homeschool co-op, writing in her spare time, and speaking for local groups.
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