I had expected that having small kids was going to be expensive, and I was right. Kids are expensive. But now that I have a teenager, my previous notion of expensive is laughable. Because teens are expensive AF. In a few short shorts, I will have not one, but three teens, and the thought alone makes my eye twitch.
Here’s my advice: Start saving before you even see the double lines on the pregnancy stick because having a teenager is like a middle finger to your finances. They eat 4 times what they used to consume. They crave things like smartphones and custom-made shoes. They need to take driver’s education classes. They want a car, or they want to use yours all the damn time, so you have to add them to your insurance. Gas needs to be put in said car to get them places whether they are driving your vehicle or their own. And then there’s all those pesky maintenance expenses, like tires and oil changes.
Graduations and proms look more like weddings. They no longer want to hang out in the basement with a plate of my homemade cookies and Netflix; they want to go to the movies, school plays, restaurants, and trampoline gyms which cost exactly a million dollars if they want to bring a friend and eat food while they are there. My checkbook is begging for mercy, and I’m having heart palpitations just writing all that.
And we haven’t even gotten to college yet. Are you freaking out? Because I’m freaking out.
And that’s why all of my teenagers will have a job; not working is simply not an option in this house.
According to a recent Bloomberg report, teenagers aren’t working like they used to in the 1980s and ’90s. As a teen in the ’80s and ’90s myself, I always had a job. If wanted to go out with my friends, I needed to make my own money. If I wanted food other than what my parents provided, I was responsible for purchasing it, and when we went back-to-school shopping, if I wanted something above and beyond what my parents could afford (I always did), it was up to me to dig out my coin purse and throw down the cheddar.
When I started driving, I paid for my driver’s ed. I bought my car insurance and registered my car; it was a shit-ton of money and my parents helped out when they could, but with four very social teenagers in the house, we were expected to pull most of our own weight. So we all had jobs, lots of them.
My son has grown out of a lot of the sports he used to play and now loves working. Last summer, he earned almost a thousand dollars, which he used to buy a smartphone. During spring vacation, he work alongside his father doing plumbing and bought a new bike. He wants to continue working this summer to afford some luxuries I won’t splurge on, and I reminded him if he wants a car, he should start saving for one because I certainly won’t be buying it.
It is a win-win to have my son doing something he loves like working on a farm with his grandfather or learning the plumbing trade with his father. He is making his own money, and he’s learning about independence, hard work, and lots of other life skills in the process.
I don’t want my kids going without the necessities in life, but it’s important to me they know how expensive things are. After all, I’m not a freaking ATM. I am their mother.
I want my kids to know exactly how far a dollar will go so they next time they want to whine, “But Mo-om, it’s only 50 bucks, just get it for me,” they will reconsider because they know exactly how long it takes to earn 50 smackers.
I want them to see what working hard can do for you, how it can make you feel. When you put in a hard day’s work and know you did your best and earned some money, it’s an amazing feeling, and it’s okay to struggle a bit while working. In fact, it just might build a bit more empathy for waitstaff and other employees, or make them think twice about leaving their trash on a park bench so they don’t make more work for someone else.
As parents, we can teach our kids a lot, but we can’t teach them everything. That’s why in this house, my kids will work. Not only will they thank me later, I guarantee they will thank themselves when they can afford those fancy sneakers or a vehicle of their own knowing they did it all by themselves.
So while I am really proud of my son for wanting to work this summer, it is something I would have forced on him anyway. And I will do the same to his siblings because learning how to work your ass off under someone else’s direction can be even more valuable than the paycheck they are bringing home.