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How to Keep Your Teen’s Back-to-School Budget in Check

Feel like your teenager is making all the major decisions around your back-to-school budget? You’re not alone. Perhaps contributing to this new trend is the old fact that peer pressure and branding have palpable effects on the everyday life of children in this age range combined with the new fact that fast-moving technology is increasingly required in the educational environment; you might not know the difference in functionality between and iPad and a generic tablet, but your teen sure does. So they end up making the decisions.

That’s fine if they stay within budget, but if they’re running your checking account dry, you may want to try an approach that’s not as brash as saying, “No, because I said so.”

You actually have a great opportunity to not only get their spending in line, but also to teach them some valuable life lessons that they’ll be able to refer back to when they’re managing their finances independently in a few years.

Give them a budget.

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Telling your teenager what they are and aren’t allowed to do isn’t going to end well. Instead, give them a budget. Tell them they can get whichever products they need, from clothes to tech, as long as they hit all of their required materials and don’t go a penny over.

To help them stay on budget, get them to use a budgeting app like Wally. It helps them keep track of expenses on the go, and note where they actually made their purchases. It’s available for free on Google Play for Android and in the App Store for iOS.

Actually give them the money.

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If you want to give your teen even more power over the budget, give them the money. The only caveat with this is that you have to be ready to not give them another penny if they make a mistake or leave anything off the list.

This method tends to be effective for teens because it gives them autonomy, and most will rise to the challenge. More than anything they want to be treated like an adult; they know that in order to gain that respect they’ll have to prove they can spend their money responsibly. It may even give them a little bit more perspective the next time they ask you for cash!

Giving them money can sometimes cost money, though. Make sure that your teen has an account that will not charge any fees that will eat into their back-to-school budget. One that we highly recommend is USAA’s Youth Spending account. Not only does it not have any maintenance fees, but it also gives your teen the opportunity to interface with mobile banking if that is their preferred modality.

Combine both methods.

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If your child has a checking account with USAA, they will get views into a couple of spreadsheets that retroactively look at their spending habits. If you want to combine the best of both worlds, though, get them a free app like Toshl that links to their bank accounts.

Toshl is way more engaging than other budget software. Greeting you at every turn are the Toshl monsters. They’ll show you fun charts and graphs that give you useful information both after you spend and before you budget. It is also available both for iOS and Android devices.