Teenagers can be expensive. They all want the latest gadget or newest fashion trend. But the cost of this can spiral so we need to budget how much is enough each month.
From birth to 18, the average cost of a child is $241,323. The monthly cost is $1200. This varies on location and parental income. These expenses include
1. Food costs
2. Does your child compete in sports?
3. What Technology do they have?
That seems like an enormous amount of money, right? It is! But these figures include housing, transportation, food, health, and miscellaneous. I think it’s possibly the miscellaneous that pushes the figure higher.
The cost of feeding my teenager has certainly increased as he has gotten older. He’s a growing teenager and every time he appears in the kitchen, it’s to graze at the fridge. I do a large grocery shop once a week. I spend about $200 on this cart of food but then might spend an additional $30-$50 on sundries throughout the week, such as milk, bread, and spurious items.
That’s not to say that my teenage son is eating all of the food, it is split between three of us, (sometimes four if my daughter is home from college). We eat pretty healthily. I would say average meals. Pizza possibly once a week for my son, as he doesn’t like Shepherds Pie!
But it’s not just about main meals, is it? It’s breakfast, lunch and of course the snacks. I try to keep his snacks relatively healthy. I don’t buy chips, only as a treat, if he’s having company over. And I don’t buy soda. He drinks a lot of milk but trains a lot in sports. He also drinks a lot of water, which I buy at the store, as our water doesn’t taste very nice.
I find it’s easier and cheaper for me to make a meal each day. My son had a lot of allergies as a younger child. We couldn’t give him a lot of store-bought products, like sauces, or ready meals. Thankfully he has grown out of his allergies but also thankfully the cooking habit continued.
This is of course easier said than done. Cooking a meal takes time and not everyone has that available to them. These days most people work full time and coming home to start cooking a full dinner is for most out of the question. My advice is when you are doing your grocery shop, have these couple of points in mind
If you have at least four meals planned, then it’s easier to quickly get in and make them when you get home from work. Rather than standing looking aimlessly into the refrigerator. It’s also a good idea to invest in a crock pot – a lifesaver on really busy days.
Whenever I bring someone grocery shopping, especially my son, (not that he really ever wants to go with me!) I always end up spending much more than normal. And also end up buying more junk than usual. It’s easy to agree to what is going in the cart, and mostly, it’s only when you get to the checkout that you see all this extra stuff going through. So my advice is to go on your own.
Going with plenty of time is sometimes a luxury. But if possible take your time. This allows you to see what’s on special. You have time to adjust your list slightly. You won’t just fly around the store, picking up everything that’s convenient.
Does Your Child Compete in A Sport?
This is where the majority of spending goes on our son. Our son is an archer. He is on the National Squad, which is amazing and makes us very proud. But this, like many others, is an expensive sport. He needs indoor and outdoor gear, targets in order to practice every day, his bow will thankfully last a few years (and he now has a sponsor) but a bow can run to $2k – $3k.
This is all kit that he needs. And we were told when he first showed an interest locally, that the costs are high for all equipment in archery. Being on a National Squad adds additional costs with extra coaching, and travel to training camps. The cost of competition depending on the distance can be up to $1000. If it is a World Archery organized event he is required to stay and eat in allocated hotels and is penalized financially if you don’t. And hey, why would we want him to stay anywhere else away from the team?
These competitions run all year around. He could easily be at one every weekend but we limit them during school time to twice a month. This is the extreme spending of a child involved in an elite sport.
But if your child is on a team in high school such as baseball/basketball or even a track team the costs can also be quite the figure. Kit, transportation, extra coaching. Expect this to be in the hundreds each month. But sport is really important in your teenager’s life and I advise if the money is available to spend it on sport.
What Technology Do They Have?
New gadgets and cell phones are being released all the time. Your child definitely doesn’t need the latest, and up-to-date model of a cell in my opinion. (even if you can afford it) In this house, new gadgets and cells have to be earned or given as gifts on birthdays or special occasions.
However, a cell is not the same as a laptop or tablet. More and more I find that school assignments must be submitted electronically. This in turn requires your teen to have a device that they can type a report on or complete research. They may have to do group assignments and unfortunately in the current COVID-19 environment that involves some kind of online meet-up. So not only do they need a pretty good laptop or tablet which may be a one-off payment or a monthly finance package, but they also need a good broadband or data package. This is an additional cost per month that is unavoidable if they have schoolwork to complete.
Yes, you may have a family Wi-Fi package in the home but I find no matter how good it is, if everyone is on at the same time, then it starts to throw some people off.
The last thing you want is for them to be in an online class or group study and lose connection. If it is affordable then I would suggest they have their own connection.
Clothing is a bit like gadgets. Even if you can afford to buy them the best gear, I wouldn’t, unless they have earned it. In saying that if it is their own money well then that is different. Girls cost more than boys when it comes to appearance. I know our daughter ( a little older now and spends her own money)when she was a teenager (15-17), every time she was going somewhere she needed a new look. It may not have been designer but it had to be new and all of these small items add up.
Our boy on the other hand didn’t really care about what he wore until he turned 16 or so. Then he would only wear two particular brands which had an average spend of $60-$80 per item.
Because we were already spending a lot on our son’s sport we weren’t spending huge amounts on clothing. But without realizing it the cost of clothing works out at about $40 per month.
The reality is they can’t wear nothing! And the older your teenager gets the more aware (sometimes) they get of fashion or trends. It’s a big business with lots of competition and with more and more online influencers the cost is only set to rise. As I say, in our house you don’t just ‘get’ because you ‘want’. There has to be a need or a special occasion. If you get on that fashion treadmill, it’s very hard to get off.
Everything I have mentioned so far is to do with day-to-day living. Food, clothing, technology. But teenage spending doesn’t end there. If your teenager has a part-time job then they have their own dispensable cash, which is fantastic. Our son does not have a part-time job because his training and competitions take up so much time and he wouldn’t be available to work on a regular basis. Due to this, when he wants to go meet up with friends we need to give him money.
We live quite rurally and so when he goes to meet friends he meets them in our local town. They usually just go have food. But money doesn’t go as far as it used to (I sound like my parents!) He gets around $15-$20 per outing. But this (because of competitions and training) is not a weekly event. The average weekly pocket money is generally set at a dollar per year, so a 13-year-old would get $13 per week and a 17-year-old gets $17 per week.
I feel that our son and our daughter before him didn’t need a weekly allowance, but didn’t want for anything either. Maybe teenagers appreciate money more if they receive a set amount each week or month. They can save for items they want or have money to go out with their friends. You have to choose which is best for your scenario. If you are giving a set amount and that runs out, mid-week or mid-month, do you give more or hold firm?
The other miscellaneous items are things like gas, hair cuts, and insurance. Again if they have a job and a car they should be paying for their own gas. But if they are running errands for you, or driving siblings home from school well then the gas should be paid for by the parent or at least subsidized.
Raising a child is certainly not a cheap option. But no one goes into parenting with their financial hat on. Well I know we didn’t.
Everything costs money. It’s how you budget, that is important. Sometimes it’s hard to live within your means. But if a splurge on the latest fashion item or cell phone for your teenager is going to push you over the edge financially for a month or more, then realistically it’s not worth it. No matter how much your teenager begs you for it.