How to Teach Your Teens About Money

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A friend was telling me how much it frustrated her that her youngest teenager didn’t understand the need to be frugal.  It reminded me of an online activity called “reality check” for teens.  If you have teens who think they have to have it all and think they can have it all, I think you’ll find this a useful tool.  Remember the old Cosby episode where Theo came home one day to find he had to pay (with monopoly money) for his furniture, rent and food?  This is the same concept, but online with a very modern look.

First your teens can choose whether they want to live in a basic, average, or luxury apt, or in a house.  They choose the utilities they’ll have, whether to eat at home or out, their transportation, clothing, insurance entertainment, personal care, miscellaneous expenses and whether or not to save/tithe.  Each choice will be assigned a $$ amount and tallied.  Multiplied by 12 months and taxes taken into consideration, the program will show the salary needed to afford the lifestyle chosen.  

Then your teen can choose their intended level of education and profession and see what job choices are available that meet their needed salary.  They might just find that there are none!

The Cosby show method might be the most dramatic way to make an impact on your teen’s financial thinking.  But I think a fun, upbeat, and free online program is much easier than moving your teen’s furniture down to the basement  :-)


  1. This is cool. My husband is a high school behavior intervention teacher and often does this with his students. Kids have no idea about the realities of life! I sent him the link.

  2. Great link. I passed this along to a relative who is having a lot of trouble with his teens. Hope it does some good.

  3. I love this! Have you ever seen one that includes other cities in the US?

  4. Our local school district has adopted this format with local business leaders instructing the class. The folks that I know who have facilitated it have had only great things to say about the program.

  5. I’m sure this flies in the face of traditional parenting in that most people I’ve found aren’t this “open” with their kids about actual finances, but…I’ve actually sat my 16yr old daughter down with our bank account page open and our bill calendar in front of us. She sees the income and outgo and knows what we have left over. I don’t do it every month. Matter of fact, I haven’t had to do it in quite a while. I only did it because I couldn’t get her to understand what I meant when I said “we don’t have the money for that right now”. It has definitely helped her understand how a budget works (or doesn’t work, sometimes) and makes her appreciate what earnings she has.

  6. I think it’s a great program too. I know the figures aren’t necessarily correct but at least it helps with the “my eyes are bigger than my wallet” syndrome a little bit. :-)
    Becky, I love that you showed your daughter your finances. I think sometimes cloaking the truth makes a bigger problem. You’re preparing your daughter for what’s to come in two short years. Great thinking!

  7. I had a program like this in school in 8th grade, and it was extremely educational! We actually had to choose our job, home, and car from the local classified ads and keep a checkbook register showing our income and expenses.

    My parents helped me learn financial responsibility by gradually adding things I had to pay for with my allowance + babysitting money. By senior year I was buying all my own clothing, hygiene items, dance lessons, school lunches and other food eaten outside the home, and all optional things like make-up and magazines. Transitioning to being on my own at college was easy!

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