Teenagers are highly motivated when it comes to clothes and expensive "toys." As a result, this is a great age to give them more training in their financial education.

At the age of 12, kids get a clothing budget. At this age, their allowance ends. Ah, the golden coveted "Clothing Budget." It was hilarious as my kids would approach this age - they just couldn't wait to get one. They seemed to forget about the allowance going away. That clothing budget meant they were like a grown-up.And we all know that is incredibly exciting to a 12-year-old.

When the children turn 12, they also get an annual Clothing and School Supplies budget. This is a fixed amount of money determined each year in August. From this amount, they may purchase clothing and school supplies throughout the entire year. They can blow it all in August or spread it out; it is up to them. Let me describe how this works.

The shopping list

Parents and Maria sit down and have Maria write down what clothes and supplies she believes will be needed for the year. Keep in mind, this is not a bonanza shopping adventure when she writes down that she needs 12 pairs of shoes. Here again, the key is prudent and thrifty. What she NEEDS, not wants.

Then, we total this up at budget prices. You will get much protestation at this stage and rolled eyes and dramatic sighs as your child states they "wouldn't be caught dead in budget clothing." This even occurs with boys, so I am very familiar with the arguments.

I tell the children that if they want to buy more expensive clothing, feel free to do so. They may either buy less or supplement with their own money. Some have supplemented while others grew to love cheaper stores. Add school supplies to this budget. Also add in hand-me-downs. If they need five dresses and will get two from their older sister, by all means deduct that.

Let's say Maria gets $250 as a clothing and supplies budget for the year, which starts in August. Sales often kick-in for school during this time of year. That money is all available in August. (If your finances can't handle that, you could do quarterly but try for no more often than that.) We have the master list and the clothing budget amount written on a card.

Please note that not every child has the same amount. In fact, Boy #4 gets a whole lot less because he is the major recipient of hand-me-downs. Yes, yes, life is not fair.

Amounts also vary because of how fast they grew. I had four boys so nicely spaced I used to take their clothes from one boy's drawer to another. Then Sons #2 and #4 grew faster. I ended up with what seemed like two sets of twins! So growth can be a factor, as well. Make no apologies for the differences. That's life. The goal is that they are adequately clothed. That's it.


They can spend their money all at once if they choose, or not. Shoes are a big issue. I can remember my oldest son buying $100 shoes with his first clothing budget and having no money left for a swimsuit. He had to swim in jeans shorts. He learned quickly (as did his observant brothers).

By the time you reach the third or fourth child, they've figured out a lot. They're not so picky about expensive labels. You can certainly remind them by saying, "Don't forget, you'll need money for shorts in the summer." They're still learning. But if they choose to buy anyway, clamp that mouth shut.

Now a couple of lessons learned the hard way. Do not make church clothes a part of the clothing budget. I learned this as my son grew really fast, had used up his budget, and refused to buy church clothes with what little was left. Take that out of the equation so it doesn't become an issue.

Shopping training

Also, talk to them as they're shopping. "Do you think this will go on sale if you wait a few weeks?" "When do you think it's a good time to buy a swimsuit?" Teach them about sales (at the beginning of the season) versus clearance (at the end of the season and a LOT cheaper). Teach them to shop around to find the same item cheaper in different stores. It's rather funny.

Now my kids educate me. Who knew you could buy shoes so incredibly cheap on eBay? My kids buy (and sell) EVERYTHING on eBay and save a bundle.

Ask them, "Do you think that will fit in the spring?" By this age, advising and counseling are better than lecturing. Have them describe to you why they made a particular purchase. It will help them learn to look for value, quality, price. What wonderful, invaluable lessons.

Annual budget

Having an annual budget is also a wonderful lesson in spreading funds out, keeping track, and planning ahead.

I bless my parents for putting this into place in our family. We learned so much. By the time we were on our own at age 18, we had six years' experience. My college roommates had none. They often learned some very painful lessons at a difficult time. We knew how to shop, budget, watch sales, plan, do without, and learn to sew.

Let me tell you, kids LOVE this. They control a BIG sum of money and can make their own decisions. They know that this is adult-time. They are ecstatic.

Again, we have a couple of rules - well, I guess just one. Items must be appropriate and modest. That's it!

Great lessons can be learned by having our children learn to shop when they're in the safety of childhood and home. Great parents teach their children financial responsibility early. This is a great way for them to learn.

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