How a teen clothing allowance can teach them about money and clothes!
Should You Give Your Teen a Clothing Allowance?
TDS Reader Solutions
My husband and I make $75,000 yearly and would like to put our only child, a daughter, on a clothing allowance. I do not have a clue as to how much would be sufficient. Can anyone help?
Clothing Allowance Teaches a Valuable Lesson
Our teenage son has been on a clothing allowance for most of his life, but has actually only made all of his own purchasing decisions (with our assistance whenever needed) since he was 14. His current budget is $20 per month. However, our family income is considerably less than yours is. What has worked well for us is to require our son to keep a "balance" of $100 for future clothing expenses. Anything that he saves above this can be put in savings toward his college fund. As a result of this incentive not to spend, we know he really does want or need the item when he makes a purchase. He has willingly scaled back on requiring designer-everything and sometimes makes purchases secondhand. His jacket, dress shirt, and tie for homecoming cost $6.50 plus tax. He looked great! He still gets reasonable quality and style for his money and has learned valuable lessons about short-term versus long-term gratification.
Learning the Value of the Dollar with a Clothing Allowance
I did this very thing with my daughter a few years ago. She gets $125 (Canadian) every three months. She quickly learned that if she needed a new winter coat in the fall she would have to save money from previous allowances or all she would have to start school with would be a new coat. At first, she forgot to plan for less exciting items such as socks and underwear. She learned about long-term planning rather than just spending from allowance. It also made her really think before buying an item, which led into a discussion of needs versus wants. Of course, she is free to supplement her allowance by earning extra money babysitting or doing extra chores around the house. When she is old enough to have a part-time job, we may look at a different system, but for the time being this is much less stressful for me as she is in charge. She has a close and dependable girlfriend of the same size who she temporarily exchanges clothes with, which, in effect, doubles both their wardrobes. She now looks for sales and she is learning that you pay a considerable amount of money to have the right "labels". I'm hoping to convert her to thrift store shopping in the near future.
Live on a Budget with a Clothing Allowance
I was on a clothing allowance as a child, and convinced my best friend to put her teenage daughter on one. She determined the amount by adding up the amount spent during the previous two years on clothes and dividing by 24 months. For them, it was about $75 per month, which sounds like a lot, but it eliminates the months of no shopping followed by the expensive months like back-to-school and prom. She then sat down with her daughter and went over the receipts from the past to show what kinds of clothes she would be expected to purchase. If you don't have receipts from the past, look through the closet and dresser drawers to see what all was purchased over the last two years. It's easy to forget things like school T-shirts, high school dances, church clothes, athletic wear, undergarments, jewelry and accessories, shoes, etc. She gave her daughter the same amount of money each month on the first of each month and expected her daughter to budget for things coming up. If her daughter needed or wanted something and came up short of money, her daughter would have to figure out how to do without that item, or find a cheaper alternative. It was helpful for the daughter to know that the amount per month was really adequate because it was based on past expenditures, and she found that she didn't really need jeans from the Limited or every color of matching shoes. It was also helpful for my friend to know that once she had doled out the allowance for the month, there would be no more arguments about "but I really need this right now".
Inexpensive Creativity Thanks to a Clothing Allowance
It all depends on the "standards" that you have set up previously with the child. If you have been telling her (by example or comments) that only brand-new or name-brand clothes will do, you will need a bigger allowance than if she has been raised that discount brands or second hand is fine.
So, the question is how much have you been spending on clothes? Give the child 50 percent of that amount to spend as she sees fit. The other 50 percent you will still spend, but for those items the child will not necessarily be interested in spending her allowance on (i.e. underwear, coats, shoes, etc.).
Sometimes, kids can be quite creative to get a "look" with less money. Let them be experimental and you may be surprised that they become a trendsetter in the peer group with little money spent. Clothing is very important to children as a way to establish their identity. Whatever you do, don't dictate how she spends her allowance and don't add to it if she overspends. Budgets are not ever expanding and that is an important lesson to learn while still at home.
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Raising Responsible Children with a Clothing Allowance
My mother did this with me 35 years ago. As soon as my daughter started working part-time (age 14, babysitting at church) and we started arguing over the cost of clothes, I implemented it with her. I estimated $100 per month totaling $1200 per year. This includes all underclothes, prom dresses, shoes, hose, etc. She logs it in a notebook. I told her from the beginning that if she "forgot" to log something and I noticed it that I would charge her double. She has never forgotten to log anything! It immediately ended the arguments where I would think something wasn't worth what she wanted to pay.
If she wants to spend the entire amount on a prom dress, it is all right with me because she knows that she will not receive any additional clothing money. It was also amazing how frugal she became when shopping. I found her favorite Gap jeans for $9.00 at a thrift store and got them for her. Her reply was "Thanks Mom!" You just saved me $35." She then logged the $9 purchase on the log. She now keeps an eye out for them at the same thrift store. She is almost 18 and we haven't argued about clothing since we started this when she was 14. I like to "pick" my arguments and this was an area I could rule out.
As an aside to this same subject, I would like to share this. When she turned 16 and was driving, I found that I frequently didn't have the cash to give her ahead of time when she was going shopping. She also ran errands with our younger child while I was working. Having money on hand always seemed an issue. We got her a credit card with a low credit limit. She logs all purchases in a check register with notations as to what it was for. Now when the bill comes in, she reconciles it. There are three areas: her purchases, her clothing allowance purchases, and purchases that she made for me. She pays me in cash for her purchases and logs all the clothing allowance purchases. If she forgets to write something down in the register and we can't remember, the expense is hers. No exceptions. She is a very responsible child. I feel that I am preparing her for going off to college in a year. This is teaching her budgeting, how to log a checking account, credit card responsibility and the importance of paying off the credit card each month. Because of guidelines we have set in high school, she will be very clear of allowances in college when she is further away. Oh yes, I also give her $20 a month for gas. This ends all discussions about her using her gas to run her brother around or any other errands for me. Good luck. We can raise responsible children!
Clothing Allowance by the Season
We also have an only child, a daughter who is now 14 years old. We also earn about 75K yearly. Last year, this was a big problem in our house. I really needed a clothing allowance for her, but had no idea on a reasonable amount. I was watching a TV program last February and this was what the lady suggested, which I am doing now.
My daughter gets a clothing allowance of $200 for the spring and summer seasons and another $200 for the fall and winter seasons. If I am shopping with her, I pay for the clothes. If she is shopping with her friends, I give her some money temporarily and we settle when she comes home. She has to show me the receipts when she buys clothes so it can be deducted from her clothing allowance. I keep all the receipts in an envelope marked "Spring/Summer $200 - Clothes Allowance" with the balance spent and balance unspent on the outside of the envelope. This way it's easy to tell how much the balance is.
It is too soon for me to tell if the amount is sufficient, but I can tell you that it has drastically minimized the "I need to buy this, I need to buy that" statement. I can tell you that it has made a tremendous difference and there are no more arguments regarding clothes. Except shoes! Do I include that as part of the clothing allowance? It hasn't been a problem yet, but I may need to adjust the $200 limit to include shoes. A good pair of sneakers alone cost $50! Anyway, the $200 limit was a good place to start with for two seasons. And it's great for her to learn to budget her money. I also mentioned to her that if there is money leftover from the spring/summer season, that we can carry that amount over to the fall/winter season.
Since we're on the subject of allowance, my daughter gets a basic allowance of a dollar per day. This is based on the age of the child. Divide the child's age in half and the amount is her allowance per week. So my 14-year-old gets $7 per week (14 divided by 2 = $7).
Reviewed February 2018
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