How a clothing allowance can help you and your teen
A Teen Clothing Allowance
by Gary Foreman
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My daughter is 13. She's continually begging me for money for clothes. I want her to be nicely dressed, but we can't afford to jump on every teen fashion trend. The way she sees it every item is "must have," so I don't know where to draw the line. Recently she suggested that I just give her $125 a month to spend on whatever clothing she wants. Is giving her a clothing allowance a good idea?Robyn
Yes, a teen clothing allowance can be a very good idea. Shifting the decision making to your daughter will reduce family friction. Plus, it provides an excellent teaching opportunity.
Let's look at some of the things you can do to make a clothing allowance for your teen a success.
Begin by setting up some rules. What items will she be responsible for? Will she buy shoes? Winter coats? How much will she get? And, how often?
Let her know that she'll be making her own choices in terms of what to buy and where to buy it.
You will want to maintain the right to veto any purchase that you feel isn't appropriate for her age. Make that clear from the beginning. Don't veto her choices because you don't like her style choices. Teens have always dressed different than their parents. The goal is to allow her to learn what styles work best for her.
Let her know that you're open to giving advice, but that you won't dictate choices.
The allowance should not be big enough to buy anything she wants. That would actually defeat the purpose of the allowance. You want to force her to decide what she really wants and what she can live without.
Not surprisingly, your teen's suggestion for a clothing allowance is high. According to U.S. government statistics, in 2010, an average mid-income family (between $57k and $99k) spent $820 (or $68 per month) on clothing for a 12- to 14-year old. What she's asking would be above the average for even families with income over $99,000.
Offer to help teach your teen how to stretch her clothing allowance. Show her how to shop clearances and at consignment and resale stores. At first, she'll probably reject these suggestions, but when she really wants something that's not within her budget, she'll be more open to new shopping tricks.
Suggest, too, that she use technology to find clothing bargains. She could be better at using discount codes than you are. She might also be aware of how many clothing deals can be found on eBay.
Encourage her to create her own style. You won't like some of her experiments, but if she develops her own look, she'll be freed from the current trends.
Expect her to make mistakes. It'll be tempting to step in and forbid her to make a bad purchase. Don't do it. First, you'll be breaking your promise that she has control over the money. Second, you'll keep her from learning valuable lessons about money.
One major goal of any teen clothing allowance is to help them learn how to prioritize their purchases. Help her to tell the difference between wants and needs. She has the opportunity to learn that a winter coat is a need and an expensive party dress is a want.
She'll also have the opportunity to learn that trendy clothes are just trendy. And, what's trendy today will be out of style tomorrow.
Encourage her to swap clothes with friends. Swaps work especially well if a whole group of friends join in. Offer to help her host a swap-party.
Plan on making periodic adjustments to your teen's clothing allowance. As she gets older, you'll want to give her more money, responsibility, and freedom. Consider getting her a debit card when she's 16 or 17.
Give her the option of making some money to add to her clothing budget. Some families allow their teens to earn money by doing additional chores at home. Others prefer to encourage teens to look for work outside the home. Working will help her to understand where money comes from.
A teen clothing allowance can be a wonderful tool. It helps to reduce friction in your family, and it also helps your teen to learn financial skills that they'll need as adults.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.
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