How to completely change your teen’s attitude to money

My husband and I have decided that if we make them just a little uncomfortable…of course we provide for their real needs ALWAYS but making those luxuries of life a teeny-tiny bit out of their reach financially can make them want to fix this problem themselves very quickly!

Snapped a sneaky pic of Mr 16 while he worked – didn’t want to interrupt or embarrass him!

And it’s pretty much worked!

We’ve always more than met our kid’s basic needs in life, always. Everyday clothing, personal hygiene products (deodorant etc), school expenses, haircuts, and (a little) entertainment money for Youth Group or friends birthday gifts etc. and in exchange, they are expected to do their share of household chores for being part of the family.

We already provide more than what they NEED and have taught them how to manage the money we give them in order to be able to afford the expenses that come up.

But as they have got older they have begun to want things that cost quite a lot and at are by no means ‘essential’ to their way of life, and as my husband and I are on a debt-free, money-saving, minimalist journey we have had to teach them that anything extra over and above this, they will have to find the money for.

In order to teach our kids about earning money, we have had to take a step back to make sure the money becomes a problem they want to fix.

Making your teenager’s luxuries a teeny-tiny bit out of reach will eventually push them into solving this $ gap themselves!

We have our children on a spending plan. We give them money every month for things that are routine expenses for them, haircuts & clothing mostly. We do this to teach our children how to manage money well and it’s a wonderful tool!

But we have chosen not to give them extra dollars for just living in our home because we don’t think this is how life really works and we want to teach them right.

When the dollars are not available or budgeted for then we have to say no. That’s not easy at all as a parent. We want to provide for our kids and give them gifts and things they enjoy.

But, we also want to teach them about money, how to earn it, how to spend it wisely, how to save, even invest. These are things that money will never buy. One of the things we want our kids to learn is the value of work and their ability to earn money.

We only get paid as adults when we provide a product or service for somebody. That’s how it is. When we model in our home that work equals money, when they are in need of some, they will very quickly realise they too could do the same.

I want our kids to manage money well, this also means teaching them that they have a lot of control over the amount of money that comes in for them. That they don’t need to be afraid or in fear of not having any. They learn that offering a product or service they can get paid too! It’s actually up to them.

This summer two of our kids, (one 14 and the other 16 ) got part-time work in a seasonal beach town of New Zealand where my husband and I grew up. We were going to be there for our summer break and the kids used it to their advantage.

Grabbed a rushed shot when we visited Miss 14 at work

The 16-year-old travelled ahead to the beach about 10 days before us and was able to secure multiple positions at different places. Our 14 year old only got work after New Year for about 10 days at one Cafe and was happy with that smaller commitment.

They worked ‘happily’ even though at times they were really tired and worn out. To our surprise, Mr 16 kept up with long sometimes 12-hour days for a whole month. They both completed their working jobs and were delighted with the pay they received, but also relieved to finish early/mid-January and come home.

I believe that because we hadn’t provided a tonne of extra cash for them to purchase things they want and specifically directed them towards a solution they could control, they took it as the best and only way for them to make it happen.

So they did it. They did the work and made it happen.

When we don’t provide finance for their wants and wishes – money becomes a problem that they want to fix

They had the motivation and willingness to work, we had talked about what they needed to do often, but getting work wasn’t just going happen out of thin air. We needed to help them a little to get started.

For starters, they needed ideas of where to go, what to say, how to ask for work, what was a good job, pay, hours, tax forms etc. At one point my son had 3 jobs!! I told him that was far too many and 2 was more than enough to handle for a kid starting out so he let one go.

Getting a lot of time with no kids around was a special bonus for us this summer too!

Just because I expect them to be 100% responsible for affording extra luxuries for themselves, I’m still their mum and happy to be a mother as they navigate this new learning. At times they needed help with things that they couldn’t manage.

When they were in their jobs they needed some assistance at times getting home at night when his shift didn’t finish till midnight, sometimes there were dilemmas with work people that they needed to talk through, and other times it was simply helping them find some food after work before getting to bed at night.

Its been a learning process for all of us. Discussion and negotiations, compromise and learning to let go of things, especially letting our children be responsible to other adults out of our own network of friends and family.

Now we are home and the door is open for them to continue working in the same sort of capacity (not on such a large scale each day) doing the same kind of job or similar closer to home but within the limitations available to them outside of school and other commitments.

They now have money to spend and save and invest and that is also pretty fun to do. The learning continues for all of us. But I’m so thankful that they have learnt some things this summer that we could not have taught them any other way. The skill of working for their money. Learning how to exchange their time and skills for money.

If we had provided them with extra cash all the time to buy those fun outfits, make-up, computer games or electronics, they never would have had the motivation to put their effort out there and earn the money themselves.

I’m so happy we did this, and how well we navigated it together. Thankful the kids had grandparents who were willing and able to give them board while they worked and took care of them when we had to get back home to work ourselves.

One of the added bonuses, when the kids start working, is the extra time alone together as a couple. We miss them, but we also try to embrace this new phase and the positive changes they bring.

I will say now that they have earnt this money, they are being pretty careful about what they will buy! They have had all summer to think about it of course but still, they are hesitant and cautious. This is exactly what we wanted! Thoughtful purchasing 🙂

If you have got teenagers at home that might be ready or are definitely ready for part-time work, either short term or long term, I have a few suggestions that might help get you all started;


  • Have them write up a small CV about themselves – nothing major, just something to give to the manager/owner when they need to leave details. (Here’s a download of the one my kids used)
  • Set a goal to visit 10 establishments at least before you stop (so make sure you have at least that amount of resume’s printed)
  • Choose any establishment that you and your child know might have work suitable for them to get started. Things to consider are; washing dishes, waiting tables, mopping floors, stocking shelves/fridges, serving customers. Places that will work are general grocers, department stores, cafes, restaurants, and any general food outlets or take away stores.
  • If your kids are nervous, don’t hesitate to role play a little and talk your kids through what they might say to introduce themselves and how to ask for a job. Pretend you’re the manager or initial person they will talk to and coach them on what they might say.
  • The first time can be difficult, the second time is easier, keep them going and not to stop until they feel at least a little positive with their efforts that day.
  • Hopefully, they will have at least one or two that are going to give them a callback – hopefully sooner rather than later!
  • Unfortunately at this stage, they may have to take what they can get in the way of offers. The goal is to get a job and so the hope is that the best one calls back first.
  • It will take a few conversations for you to help them navigate which job to do (if there are multiple offers), and especially filling in tax forms and bank accounts etc.
  • The next key is to make sure they commit to this application and stick to this employment until it exhausts its benefits or they decide to find another place to work that’s more suitable. At least now they have a tremendous amount of experience in looking for work they didn’t have before and will feel even more confident in what kind of work they would like to do.