Are you concerned that your teen is mis-managing their money? Maybe you’ve noticed your teen spending every dollar they earn, or perhaps they’re relying on credit cards too heavily and only making the minimum payment each month. If you want to teach your teenager to become responsible and develop a healthy relationship with money, you need to be able to identify mistakes they are making and start having the conversations now to help them learn from those mistakes or avoid them altogether.

8 Common Money Management Mistakes Teens Make

  1. Excessive and frivolous spending
  2. Not having a plan or budget.
  3. Signing up for various monthly subscriptions.  
  4. Not paying off credit cards every month. 
  5. Buying “new” before considering “used. 
  6. Accumulating debt early in life. 
  7. Failing to save for emergencies
  8. Avoiding conversations about money. 

What Can You Do to Help Your Teen?

If any of the 8 financial pitfalls sound familiar (you may have even made some of these mistakes when you were younger) you can share your experience with your teens to show them how you handled those scenarios as you got older (and wiser). Your insights can help prevent them from making those mistakes with their own money.

But your personal experience doesn’t have to be all you share. We at SpouseLink did what we do best and posed the question to our online community of servicemembers, Veterans, and military spouses! Here are their real-life tips:

What Money Advice Would You Give Yourself as a Teen?

“I wish I had set up a few accounts early on with some auto saving systems. That every paycheck automatically got allocated so I never could spend it all (oddly for an accountant I like to spend!) and then put some into savings for a rainy day and some into an investment account and learn the stock market! As a kid- stakes are lower with good parents around. So let them play a bit, win and lose some, (…) and overall just get a taste of it in a safe environment.”

Caitlynn Eldridge, CPA

“I would tell my teen self that trends come and go so fast that it isn’t wise to throw money away trying to keep up with it. Buy practical, quality things, but try not to fall victim to fast fashion. Thrift stores are awesome!”


“If I was honest, I would tell myself that $400 for a keyboard is too much when you’re not even in a band yet. But behind that story is the true gem — if you budget for big purchases, over time you can make big purchases.”

John Larson (USA, Ret.)

“The advice I would give myself would be to always be saving. You don’t always have to know what you’re saving for, but when you’ve saved, you have options. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation!”

Becky Daniels

“My teen is responsible to pay for the things they need. They earn a monthly allowance that includes chores, babysitting and other tasks we assign. Every month we go over how much money he has available to buy things he wants/needs, or trips. Then we budget the money for that month, teaching him the importance of saving.”


“Learn the discipline of saving. It will be a skill that benefits you (and compounds) your entire life.”

COL Jerry Quinn (USAR)

How Do You Help Your Teen Manage Money?

“We started teaching [our son] in third [grade] how to add up his expenses and how to determine a need from a want. We teach the difference in money in the bank and credit. My kid is actually very frugal with his money. And we put him on [my spouse’s] credit card and gave him his own for emergencies. It also helps establish a credit score for him so that he isn’t starting at zero and does not end up with a high interest rate on his first major purchase.”


“The best advice I give all of my teens is to learn to pay yourself first. Then figure out what is most important to you. The rest will fall into place. I have my teens make a list of things that they want to do that requires money. Then we walk through the process of figuring out how to put the pieces together. So we build a money map of how we want to spend our money. And make adjustments along the way. Similar to a budget but it is approached differently than a budget and tends to lend more towards empowerment of choices.”

Tonya Yudizky

“Model good money management, let teens watch you save for things, do restaurants rarely, don’t make spur-of-the-moment decisions often.”


“We sat them down before they went to college and made them a budget for the year, and at Christmas we evaluated and made tweaks with them. It’s been great!”


“My daughter is 14 and taking a personal finance class. Each week they spin the “random wheel” and get an unexpected expense that they have to figure out how to pay for. Last week she was given a child! 😬 It was a proud mom moment listening to her tell me about what she had to give up financially to support the child and how hard that was. I’ve loved watching her learn and understand how important it is for her to be financially smart, stable, and secure even as a teenager!”

Anna Larson

“Get a job as soon as you can, save at least half of what you make, avoid impulse buys, and never spend what you don’t have.”


What Is Some of the Best Financial Advice You Received?

“A wise senior NCO sat me down as a Lieutenant and shared the value of compound interest. Also a young soldier who was homeless before joining the service told me even though I don’t make a lot I save 20 dollars a week toward “my future self”…. It’s fun to see how all that wisdom has played out. Tithe, pay your future self (save… even if only a $1… you will thank yourself), and enjoy the rest… I mean if you REALLY want something it’s worth waiting for, right?”

Amy Spencer

“The best advice I got? Learn how to budget which means writing down all your monthly expenses and watching to ensure you are not incurring debts that will bog you down.”

Anna Larson

“My mom told me to always budget to the point where I still use a checkbook register to this day. Every 1st of the month I write down all expenses so that I know what I have left over. I have been doing this for over 25 years!”

Annette Whittenberger

One of the spouses we spoke to said something that really resonated with us, “You can’t prevent [your teen] from making money mistakes. You can only advise them on what to do with their money and hope for the best. Making money mistakes is part of growing up.”

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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