“Why do we always have to use a coupon to buy my clothes?” laments my eleven-year-old daughter. “I want them today.”
“You know we have a clothing budget. We can get more for our money if we wait until the item is on sale and we have a coupon,” I try explaining once again.
“Everyone else’s mom just buys their designer jeans even if they’re not on sale,” she retorts trying for the mother guilt button.
Clothing Budget. But this conversation changed significantly one year later when our seventh grader was given her very own clothing budget. “Mom, do you have any coupons? I need some jeans,” I proudly heard. She was allotted a monthly amount but could use up to three months of budget money at a time if necessary. Since our daughters were in year-round school, budget money for three months seemed reasonable.
Consider Needs. No, we didn’t just give our adolescents money and let them have a free for all. We talked about special events coming up, seasonal items like coats and swimsuits, what still fits from last season, do they need new undergarments, what about shoes, ways they can update their wardrobe inexpensively, and yes, how buying items on sale and using coupons saves money. Because they knew the cost of every item purchased, they took great care of their clothes when they began doing their own laundry at age thirteen (see previous blog, Laundry or Writing?).
Special Events. As they entered high school and needed dresses for special events such as the winter formal and the prom, we paid for half the dress cost up to a certain amount. Young men will need additional budget money for winter formal sports coats and renting tuxedoes for the prom. When they wanted additional clothing or designer clothing items that cost more, they used gift money or worked for extra money. Other families we know paid up to a certain amount for clothing items, such as a pair of jean or athletic shoes, and the young person paid the difference.
Your Family Budget. I’m purposely not sharing how much money we gave them for two reasons. They are young adults and inflation has occurred since they were teenagers. Secondly, each family has an income; some may have a larger budget for clothing, while others families will have smaller budgets. You may think you can’t afford to give your adolescents a clothing budget, but if you honestly track how much you spend on their clothes, shoes, undergarments, etc. it adds up quickly. The point isn’t so much about how much you allot for their budget, but teaching them the principles of money management.
Transition. When you transition the budget responsibility to your young adults, please resist the temptation to rescue them when they spend all their clothing money and need something. They will not learn to plan ahead and use their money wisely if you rescue them. Keep in mind that they will eventually learn to live with the consequences if you allow them opportunities to learn. And in no time, they’ll start asking, “Do you have any coupons?” and you will know you’ve done your job.