How My Teen Finally Became Excited About Budgeting

It will only be a few short years before my teen will be out on her own navigating life.

I want to prepare her as best as I can for the potential risks and pitfalls of the big world. I also know how stubborn teenagers can be and how difficult it can be to get them excited about anything that might benefit them. 

And of course, I know my daughter needs money management and financial skills. These are essential for success as an adult.

I wondered how I could possibly get my teen interested in budgeting and using her money wisely.

Technology was the breakthrough I needed to appeal to my teen.

Why Budgeting Is Important

If your teen is anything like mine, they will be useless with money. She seemed to think money was an infinite resource that just endlessly flows from the bank of mom and dad.

I started giving my daughter an allowance and explained the basics of budgeting. If she saves $10 of her allowance a week, within 20 weeks, she could buy a brand new bike for $200. However, it never seemed to get through, and she always spent all of her allowances.

I wanted my daughter to track her spending.

She was spending a lot of money on drinks and snacks while out with her friends. These small costs add up. I wanted her to realize how much money she was spending on these small unnecessary purchases. And I wanted to teach her the value of working towards bigger goals.

If she wants to go to the theme park or wants an expensive pair of new shoes, she needs to save. Hopefully, one day she will even start thinking about bigger financial goals, like buying a car or house.

Also, I wanted to make sure my daughter never fell into the debt trap.

Having experienced this earlier in life, I know how debt can spiral out of control. I don’t want my teen to make some of the mistakes that I did. Still, I struggled with how to make budgeting exciting. These are some of the tips and tricks that seemed to work for me. 

Enter the Travel Planning Template

I found a travel planning template online and went through it with my daughter. It was a great tool. It gave her something to work towards. She could see a tangible goal and realize the benefit of saving money.

travel planner template
Example Travel Planner Template from Tiller Community Solutions

A travel planner can include countries or places you want to visit, things you want to see, fun activities you want to do, and places you want to eat. 

My daughter is planning a trip to Florida with her friends, and now it’s clear to her what actions she can take to get there. The travel planner also makes her think about all the essential items she needs to take with her on the trip. Using technology has helped get my daughter interested in budgeting for this trip. 

We found a template online. We then put all the info into a spreadsheet, and we utilized the automated software developed by Tiller, so we can track the latest information in real-time. With Tiller, it’s also easy to keep it updated. 

Holiday Gift Planner

The travel planner seemed to work well, and I wanted to find other ways to keep my teen interested in budgeting. I then found a holiday gift planner.

This allows you to organize the presents you want to give to your family and friends throughout the year. My teen loved this. She knows how much money she has to save by a certain time to buy the presents she wants. 

holiday gift planner spreadsheet works with tiller money
Example Holiday Planner Template from Tiller Community Solutions

The holiday planner helped her to be strategic. I know it is helping her to learn how to plan for big expenses. Together we sit down, and we plan carefully. Obviously, she doesn’t tell me what gifts she is planning to buy for me, though.  

My daughter was able to plan some small Christmas gifts for the family. We used spreadsheets when we were budgeting, and Tiller helped us to organize everything and make it clear and easy to understand.  

Make It Pretty

This was especially applicable to my teen. Budgeting doesn’t have to be monochrome and boring. We bought colorful budgeting books. We used lots of worksheets. They can be colorful and classy. Most of all, they are super useful. We even added stickers. 

Tiller allows you to add your own colors, fonts, and graphs to spreadsheets. Pinterest has plenty of worksheets that are splattered with rainbows and unicorns. Colors seemed to brighten my teen’s mood. It added a bit of spice to the process and made it fun. She didn’t see it as another boring school task. 

Offer Rewards

Initially, I offered my teen some simple rewards. I offered to buy her takeout or to buy a book that she wanted. I slowly showed her how she could plan out her own rewards by budgeting successfully.

Whether your teen loves clothes, food, video games, books, or fancy pens, they can save up for these in their budget. 

My teen now knows how to reward herself. In her case, she loves books. She rewards herself with some of the novels she has been waiting eagerly to read.  

Use Budgeting Software

25 best excel busget spreadsheets
Tiller for Microsoft Excel

Really, this makes the whole process so easy. To my teen, at least, math can be pretty overwhelming. I’m also no Einstein. I wanted to make the whole process as easy as possible. Using software like Tiller meant that I could see real-time updates of finances. It’s really intuitive and user-friendly and it made the whole process effortless.

For us, it helped to take the stress out of budgeting. It made it enjoyable and fun.

Help Your Teen With Banking

african american teenage girl shopping online

These days there are many banking options for teens. My daughter was thrilled to have her own bank account. It gave her a sense of independence and responsibility. We found that most accounts don’t charge fees and don’t ask for a minimum deposit. 

I even got a debit card for my teen and she loves it. The account I opened for her has parental controls so I know she won’t get into too much trouble. We even started adding the ingoings and outgoings from bank statements to her budgeting spreadsheets. 

In Summary

The temptation to spend money is around every corner. Teens need to learn how to spend responsibly.

It took some effort, but I managed it with my teen and I believe you can too. 

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Ellie Lott

Ellie Lott