Summer, Broke, Bored: Change the Conversation With Your Teen
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Summer, Broke, Bored: Change the Conversation With Your Teen

A dad is helping his teen create a budget for the summer.

Virtual school and homeschooling were tough enough when the nation's 30,000 K-12 schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it's summer, with many camps and entertainment centers closed or operating at limited capacity. Internships, volunteer positions, and paying jobs are scarce for your teen.

Social distancing means fewer opportunities to meet and hang out with friends at parks, pools, and shopping centers.

How do you help your teenager help themselves when it comes to finding meaningful work this summer and still enjoy their time off on a budget?

Opportunity, Not Excuse: Six Tips to Teach Money Skills and Find Work

Plan Your Summer Vacation as a Family

Involve your teens in the summer vacation planning. Decide as a family where you're going, the most frugal, yet time-saving way to get there, stay there, visit attractions, and eat. Make a deal with your teen: if they can come up with deals to save that benefit the family, they get to spend a percentage of the savings on whatever they want.

It's Not About Having One Job: Multiple Streams of Income

If your teen did not get a dream job, then look for smaller jobs to create multiple incomes. It's a lifetime learning tool useful later on if their main source of adult income ends due to a natural or manmade disaster, medical issues, or corporate downsizing. Multiple streams of income also teach discipline; each day brings different challenges, including working varied hours, sitting at a desk one day and sweating out yard work the next, honing their organizational skills, and dealing with a variety of personalities demanding last-minute accommodations.

Don't Just Look for Work; Sell Your Skills

If the conventional summer job hunt fails, your teenager's social media mastery can help them find employment. Set up a video resume online, with information about their skills, available hours, and why they're the best person for the job. Your teenager dresses for the video as a face-to-face formal interview. They look into the camera with their chin up, smile, and pitch themselves over their competitors, playing up their experience and strengths and asking for the job. Then post the video on their social media platforms and contact employers with and without openings, and ask for the human resource manager's email. Then send the video; it's a different job application but a very memorable one.

The "B" Word: Budgeting Now Counts Later

A teen who's chronically broke and doesn't understand why needs to see how money comes in and goes out. It's time to use a pen and paper or an online platform to create a budget, especially if they have no income to work with now. Keep it simple: income on one side (allowance, earnings from chores and work, money gifts) and expenses on the other. Subtract expenses from income, and it's a graphic picture of how their financial life flows. Once an understanding of spending less than they earn is attained, it's time to add budgeting categories for entertainment, fast food, apps, and things they want. Then, help their budget "grow up" by adding categories for school clothes, their phone bill, college costs, and that much-desired car.

A tangible budget with realistic goals shows teens what mom and dad spend and begins to shift some responsibility, even if it's just to chip in towards some expenses.

Needs Versus Wants: What's the Difference?

To a teenager, everything they want is a need. If their friends have it, if it's on social media, if their favorite influencers extoll its virtues, it must be good and it must be theirs, too. It's time to discuss and define needs and wants. Needs are what keep us alive and functioning: food, clothing, shelter, transportation to get to a job that provides those necessities, medicine, and basic digital communication capability, which is vital for most employment today. Everything else is a want, and your teenager can save for it, give up something else in exchange for it, buy it secondhand, or live without it.

The Allowance Factor: Weekly or Monthly?

If you still provide an allowance to your teenager, consider going to a monthly schedule. It provides a challenge to their budgeting skills by giving them a larger fund to work with. For older teens, consider putting their allowance on a prepaid card. This teaches restraint and tracking skills; your teen has to check the balance before pulling out their plastic. And when the month's money is gone, the Bank of Mom and Dad does not provide a bailout to replenish the card; your teenager waits until the next allowance date.