Many parents struggle with the question of what they should make their teenagers pay for. There is no one size fits all answer, but there's a concept that fits every situation.
Simply ask yourself, "Will giving this money help him or her grow up to be a responsible, hardworking, well-functioning and independent adult?". If the answer is no, then don't pay, OR make a contribution and have your teen pay the rest.
Children need to learn about self-discipline, saving and waiting. There are lots of ways for kids to earn money (babysitting, mowing lawns, delivering things, being creative, etc.), and the more they pay their own way, the more they will learn how to survive in life and increase their self-confidence. Remember, it's not your job as a parent to make them happy every moment of every day - it's to help them be the best person they can be.
Here are some things I think every parent should require their teenagers to pay for:
- Meals out with friends. Obviously Mom and Dad should pay for basic meals, but if your teen wants to eat out with their buddies, then that's on them.
- Gas, insurance and maintenance on the car you ALLOW them to use. If they can't make the payments, they shouldn't be driving your car. It makes teenagers a lot more responsible when they are the ones coughing up the dough.
- Cell phone overages. Cell phones are a privilege, not a right or a necessity. If your teenager isn't paying for their own plan, have them pay for any texting or data overages. Also, phone insurance is about $5 a month; have them cover it.
- Lost items. Whether it's a cell phone, sunglasses or a purse, if they lose something you bought them, they have to pay for it.
- Party clothes. Parents should pay for basic clothing, but if your teenager wants to buy something special from a special store, they should pay.
- Silly, preventable, stupid mistakes. If your teen damages a neighbor's property, for example, they need to pay for it or work it off by doing chores at the neighbor's home.
- Gifts. Even if your kid is dead broke, don't give them cash to buy family and friends birthday or holiday gifts. There are tons of inexpensive or free things they can do that make nice presents.
- Donations. Teens should make donations with their own money. It teaches them about being charitable and that you don't only give when you have extra funds.
- Upgrades. Let's say your teen plays a sport and has worn out their gear. If the sport is something they are very passionate about and committed to, then you can treat the gear as an essential purchase. However, you should only buy them what is reasonable and customary. If they want something stylish, they need to pay for it themselves.