Last week I gave ideas for youth to earn money. Once teens learn how to earn money, they need to learn how to spend it. When I was a teenager I earned money, saved money, and avoided debt, but I wish that I would have understood how to spend money an intentional and focused way. I hope this post helps at least one teen avoid my mistake.
Twenty years ago, we didn’t have social media, but I often got distracted by items “on sale." I really loved the feeling of getting a good deal. One time, we were an outlet store that had jeans on sale for $5. There was no dressing room to try the pants on, but I bought 4 pair because they were cheap. The pants did not look good. I didn’t like how they fit, so I didn’t wear them. It wasn’t a good deal. I would have been better off to buy one $20 pair of pants which fit me and which I loved. I needed a plan to help me stay focused on what I wanted.
There are 3 keys to budgeting:
Budgeting is really simple to understand. You decide where to spend your money rather than letting your friends, social media, or advertising decide. Through budgeting, teens decide where their money will go and then they make it go there.
Youth use plans every day: recipes, school schedules, and game plans. For example, every teenagers has an education plan. Their counselors and their parents help them to make this plan and evaluate it regularly. Then, they take classes based on the plan. They consider the different classes and decide which classes that they will take: some are required and some are optional. It would be very chaotic if they just showed up to school and decided what class they would attend that day based on what was going on.
“Oh, there is a field trip in the choir class: I think I’ll join them.”
“There’s a party in Spanish. I’ll make that one of my classes.”
But, this is what often happens with our money and our eating habits. What if parents, leaders, and teachers sat down with the youth and helped them decide to spend money in the same way they help them decide which classes to take? There would be some required classes. We also have required expenses called needs: gas for the car, supplies, clothes, etc. There are some elective classes, and there are elective “variable expenses" (vacation, entertainment, and eating out).
Let’s say you have a plan for your vacation. What if the weather is bad, or what if you get sick? What if you hear about a neat activity that you hadn’t planned on? You can adjust the plan. You don’t abandon the plan. There are unknowns. What if an opportunity comes up which you weren’t expecting?
A couple of weeks ago, my niece invited my daughter Jackie to come up to Alaska with their grandparents. Jackie hadn’t budgeted for that, and she didn’t have much time - only three weeks. She had been saving her money and once she heard about Alaska, she focused on that trip. I heard her tell someone that she didn’t want to spend her money because she was saving it for Alaska.
Sometimes unexpected opportunities come up that you want to do. That isn’t the same as buying anything that’s a good deal or letting others talk you into it. If we hadn’t had the money, it would have been fine to say that we couldn’t afford it and that we will travel to Alaska when we can afford it. But, our family had a vacation fund. We decided we had enough in there to pay for half of her ticket. It took most of her savings to pay for the other half of the ticket.
Not everything is predictable. You can predict a lot of things, but without flexibility, budgets will fail. Back to the school schedule analogy, if a class isn’t working, it can be evaluated and changed. The schedule isn’t permanent but it is set.
Although budgeting does have flexibility, it is important to still follow the budget. Teenage drivers learn pretty quickly that they can only drive until the car runs out of gas. At that point, they have to refill. So, they have to watch the fuel gauge or they get stranded.
Budgeting also requires a gauge in order to follow our budget. Money is finite, so it’s important to know how much is left. It can be a very simple system. Teens start out with few expenses compared to adults, so it is relatively simple.
One example of a gauge is the envelope system. They have an envelope for entertainment, and they can see how much is in there and plan their entertainment. If they have a phone, there are a lot of apps that allow teens to do electronic envelopes. Without a gauge, budgeting doesn’t work, and we run out of fuel/money.
Life isn’t about money - money is a tool for life. Parents, grandparents, and other leaders of youth, we can teach them that they can budget their money to help them to live their life and be their best selves. They can stick to their financial plan, schedule, and budget. They can say "no" to expenses that aren’t right for them.
I get to serve with teenagers in my neighborhood. When I talked with them about budgeting money, they all said, “We don’t have any money to budget!” That is an issue. Besides the occasional gift, they didn’t have steady income. They need to earn money in order to budget that money.
Here are some ways for teens to earn money:
My first hourly job was working as a cashier at a drycleaners. My neighbor worked there. She told me they were hiring and asked if I was interested. It was a nice job for a high schooler because they would let me do my homework when business was slow.
This could be any product or service that others will buy. Here are a few ideas:
This is an option I didn’t have as a teenager. Internet wasn’t available to the public until I was in college, and most connections were dial up, so they were slow. There are so many options now for online businesses! One teenager I heard about was interested in gems and he had an online gem store. How cool! The internet opens up a lot of options. Some teenagers blog. Online businesses can be started inexpensively.
What jobs did you have as a teenager? There are so many options, so if you have a teen or are a teen who doesn’t have money to budget, try some of these work ideas out and let us know how it goes!
The first step to teaching your kids about money is talking about money.
“The most effective way to teach is by having frequent discussions and don’t ever lecture,” said Ted Beck, president and chief executive of the National Endowment for Financial Education, in a recent Wall Street Journal article. “Look for teachable moments and always be willing to answer questions.”
Unfortunately, this can also be the hardest.
A 2015 T. Rowe Price survey found that 72% of parents experienced at least some reluctance to talk to their kids about financial matters, and 18% were either very or extremely reluctant. The most common reasons given were that the parents didn’t want them to worry about financial matters or thought they were too young to understand.
But on his blog, the personal-finance guru and radio host Dave Ramsey encourages parents to be more open with their kids about money, even their failures. Parents’ biggest regrets are often not saving enough or going into too much debt, wrote Ramsey. Being honest about that in an age-appropriate way, he stated, can be a powerful lesson.
So how to start the talk?
Wasatch Peaks Credit Union is so excited to announce that we are now live with our new Peaks Money Manager™ product.
This is a data-driven money management tool that securely integrates into digital banking products and enables users to take control of their finances. Budgeting, account aggregation, auto-categorization, and debt management are just a few of the tools that this product offers.
It is easy to access – just login to your Wasatch Peaks account online and select Services, then select Peaks Money Manager.
There is also an app available for mobile devices. The apps can be found in the app stores! Follow this link to download for Androids or this link to download for Apple products. Once you download the app, it will ask for an access code. This is generated within the desktop version of Peaks Money Manager. Simply login to your account at your desktop or laptop and select Services and then Peaks Money Manager. From there go to Settings (top right-hand corner) and then select Mobile Devices and click on Generate Access Code.
This is a great way to see all of your accounts at Wasatch Peaks Credit Union as well as any other financial accounts you have elsewhere. You can look at your HSA, John Hancock Account, and many others in one place to help view your total financial picture. Download or access it on your desktop today and take control of your finances!
Over the weekend I bought Valentines for my family. Those are the first of the many gifts that I will buy this year. Budgeting helps me enjoy gift giving and helps me give more meaningful gifts.
The budgeting category of gifts can be challenging. It really is a subcategory that requires more planning. It’s not like my phone bill category that I allocate money and then pay it. Gifts need their own detailed plan within the budget plan.
Gifts and I have a love/hate relationship. I love giving gifts - especially when I find the “perfect gift” that will mean a lot to the person who is receiving it. Long before the Internet, I remember ordering gifts by phone. My sister and I were watching TV and saw an infomercial for a classical rock CD. She got excited and said she wanted it, so I sneakily wrote down the phone number and ordered it. Her eyes lit up when she opened it. That was so cool! I also love receiving gifts - especially surprises. I hate when I feel obligated to give a gift and can’t find one. In the past, I felt like I need to give someone a gift at Christmas because they gave me one, instead of graciously accepting what they gave. I’m trying to eliminate giving out of obligation, but I admit it is still a struggle.
Budgets make gift giving fun because it helps you avoid feeling regrets or other bad feelings. Here are steps to create your giving plan for this year:
Leave some flexibility in your gift budget. I’ve realized that there are some gifts that I’ll want to give that I can’t predict. I leave some flexibility in my budget for the baby showers, wedding showers, and graduations which will inevitably come up. We budget $20 a month to our miscellaneous “giving” category, so that we have some flexibility to give. Including this has been key to our gift budget.
Personalize your gift giving category. Make it work for you. When I give small gifts like the Valentines that I bought, I include them in my groceries. I keep it simple if it is minor, but for big gifts, I plan them out. There is no right or wrong way as long as it is your way! Just figure out what your way is. I learned to do what is right for my family.
Around our 10-year anniversary, I started to feel pressure to go on a big trip. When I thought about why I felt that way, I realized it was because my cousin and his wife had just posted pictures from their 10-year anniversary trip, but we didn’t have the money budgeted for that and didn’t even really want to do that. So, we didn’t. It’s cool that my cousin wanted to do that and had a great time. I was able to feel happy for them and feel content that we didn’t spend money we didn’t have on a trip we didn’t really want to do. By personalizing your gift budget, you give the way you want to give and can feel content.
Plan to save for the gifts that you can predict. Many of the big gifts that we give are predictable, like Christmas and birthday gifts. All of my family’s birthdays fall in the first 7 months of the year. I like this, but I have to plan for it. Some years I save throughout the year for birthdays and Christmas. This year, I don’t have the money saved, so I’m budgeting birthday money for the first six months. My husband is paid bi-weekly. I figured out when the 3rd paychecks of the month will fall, and designated those to go towards Christmas this year and birthdays for next year.
There are a lot of ways to save for gifts. Look at your personal situation to figure out how to save for those. Would it work best to put it all away at once or save every month? If you are self-employed and have a busy season, it could make sense for you to save for all your gifts during that time. Wasatch Peaks has a Christmas Club Account and Budgeter Accounts that could be a great tool to do this. I have used a spreadsheet or budgeting software to make electronic envelopes and set aside the money for birthdays so that I don’t spend it. Thinking through these details has relieved so much stress.
Don’t just give because you feel obligated. When I do this, I feel bad afterward. My mother-in-law asked us not to give her anything for Mother’s Day except a homemade card. This was very hard for me because I love her so much and really wanted to give her a gift. She knew this and told Ty that she would be mad at me if I did something. I learned a lot from this. If we can think of something she would enjoy, like pictures of our family, we give them, and she graciously accepts them.
Express love through gifts. We can’t buy love, but we can buy gifts, and if done in the right way, they can help express love and strengthen relationships. When we were dating, Ty made me a DVD with songs to go with it. He also gave me a watch. The DVD meant a lot to me because it was so thoughtful. And after 15 years, I still have the watch (it just needs batteries). These are gifts that last. Since that time, I remember only one other Valentine's gift. Instead of focusing on Valentine's Day, we try to show love all the time. It’s so fun to pick up a favorite treat for my husband while I’m at the store. We aren’t anti-Valentine's Day - if you buy the heart balloons, big stuffed teddy bear, and heart shaped chocolates, that’s cool with us! My husband has gone to Walmart the night before Valentine’s Day for entertainment. He loves to watch dazed shoppers searching for a gift.
Give what you can afford to give. Often, the best gifts are the gifts that mean the most to the receiver. These gifts are heartfelt, and not because they are expensive. They are often super simple and cheap, but require understanding what would mean the most to the receiver.
Almost 2 years ago, I attended a youth conference with a group of youth and adults. We got to know each other really well on that trip. One of the leaders served as our cook. At lunch time one day, he found out that I love eating the ends of the bread. On the way home from this youth conference, I found out that my husband had be fired unexpectedly and without cause. This was an emotionally hard time for us. We really needed support as Ty & I clung to each other and our young family. One morning soon after, I opened my door and on the porch was a bag of bread heels! I knew who had left them. I’m sure that this unconventional gift that didn’t cost much more than the trip down to the bread store. Most people wouldn’t get emotional or appreciate a bag of leftover bread heels, but that gift is one of the most thoughtful, unique, and meaningful gifts I have ever received. Tears come as I think of the kindness of that dear mentor!
Gifts can be a major or a minor budgeting expense. It’s up to you! Budgets are personal. You can make your gift budget as small or as large as you want it to be.
I have received a lot of gifts over the past 4 decades and I really appreciate those gifts. Budgeting has improved my gift giving! It makes it less stressful and more fun. The work it takes to create gift budgets has been so worth the reward.
In 2006, my sister got married. On the day before the wedding, I was asked to run a few errands to pick up some last minute items for her reception. I bought some music. I also bought a cardboard cutout of President Bush (which we turned into a cutout of my brother who was unable to attend). Lastly, I bought some decorations. A few days after the wedding, I checked my account and saw THREE overdraft fees for $25 each, which totaled $75. When I had made those purchases I knew that I had money but didn’t realize that it was in our savings account and not our checking account. The overdraft fees cost much more that the items I purchased.
First is to plan (aka budget) for parties. Because it was my sister’s wedding, I really hadn’t planned to spend money besides her gift. By planning, you can avoid costly fees and spending hangovers/aches. It was nice of me to want to help out and run the errands for my mom who was very busy, but I should have made sure that I could afford them or honestly said that I couldn’t.
If I could afford them, I needed to make sure that I had the money in my checking account. The items I bought were not that important for the party. We could have gone without them or my mom could have paid for them.
Secondly, I learned that mistakes can teach us. I haven’t had an overdraft charge since that day over 11 years ago because I decided that I would never let that happen again. At the time, it seemed like a very expensive mistake, but looking back, it was a cheap mistake that has saved me a lot of money because I decided to change. This mistake inspired me to become a budgeter.
Although I’m not perfect at budgeting, I have improved so much. Parties are all about celebrating something: life, friendships, and accomplishments. I don’t want the celebration to leave me with regrets. When you follow a budget, you enjoy the party before, during and after. By sticking to the plan, you feel like you do after a workout - you feel good.
For example, a wedding budget could be $5,000 or $20,000. If you have a large budget, you can do an expensive party. If you have a small budget, then it will be a less expensive one. Both can be great, but the budget will determine the party. By spending what you plan to spend, you feel less stress and can really enjoy the experience and the memories which come out of it. I’ve been to wedding receptions that were expensive and some that were not expensive. Both were great because they were what that couple wanted. Some of my favorite parties have been the inexpensive ones. The memories made were priceless.
I’m not much of a partier. It’s probably because a lot of parties involve late nights and I like to go to bed early, but if you are a partier that is great. I saw a commercial for the upcoming Super Bowl parties. If you are a fan, you are counting down the days to watch the Patriots and Falcons face off in the Super Bowl this year. You might be planning how you’ll cheer on your team.
Answering a couple of questions will help you decide the best way for you to plan the finances for your parties.
Parties are a great way to enjoy life and make incredible memories. Budgeting for these parties will help make them successful and allow you to party on without regrets!
With snow piled taller than me, it’s unthinkable that someone would wait in line for two hours to play in the snow. But, my sister and her family went to a Winter festival in Houston, Texas, and the city had hauled in a load of fake snow for it. There was a long line of Texans waiting to play in the “snow.” Being from Utah, she was amazed. Her kids wanted to wait, but she couldn’t make herself wait in a line for two hours for fake snow. I wish I could mail some of Utah’s snow to my Texan nephews. We are running out of places to put it.
I’ve lived my entire life in Utah. For quite a few winters I took care of babies, and we hibernated. I took the snow for granted. A couple of years ago, I decided we would dress warmly and start adventuring out into the snow. I wanted to enjoy the winter too.
Last Saturday, my family went to the Winter Festival at Wasatch Mountain State Park. After receiving six inches of snow that morning, it was the perfect day for a party to celebrate winter. We went cross country skiing for the first time. Snow shoeing and riding snow bikes were also available. Lunch was provided. The whole event was free for us. The only thing that we had to pay for was transportation to get there. Utah has 43 state parks, so if you are looking for a staycation or a day trip, state parks could be a good fit. The fees are low at most of the state parks. We bought an annual state parks pass $75 ($35 for seniors), and it has been well worth it.
To find out about upcoming activities, you can check out the Utah State Parks website. This year is the 60th anniversary of the state parks. Each week there will be some activity at one of the parks to celebrate. There will be “hiking, fishing tournaments, dances, winter festivals, and more!” We were told that each state park has its own mailing list, which is how we found out about the Winter Festival. Iif you are interested in a particular state park, you can ask to be put on their email list. There are two Winter Festivals this weekend! One is at East Canyon and one is at Bear Lake.
Over New Years we went to Zion’s National Park and saw tourists from all over the world. This made me realize how neat our Parks are and gave me the desire to go to them more often. Because they are so close, sometimes I take them for granted.
Staycations and day trips are great and Utah has so much available, but kids grow up. I want to do a big trip to Disneyland and San Diego. My sister’s family just moved to Alaska. I miss her, and I want to visit them. She’s very adventurous and has found so many beautiful and adventurous activities in Alaska, which we would like to do. We also are planning a trip to Spain in a few years.
While growing up, my husband’s family didn’t take expensive trips. They loaded their family in a Volkswagen Rabbit and went camping. My husband loved it. He didn’t feel deprived. He is content taking camping vacations. Their family lived debt free.
My mother-in-law is one of the wisest women I know. So, I asked her if she would do the same kinds of trips that she did having the perspective that she does. She said that she would see everything close in Utah, but she would also put a few dollars away each month to be able to go on a neat big trip every few years. She would still pay for them in cash, but she would prioritize doing some trips that are important to her family. She regrets not doing a few more big trips.
Personal Finances are just that - PERSONAL and INDIVIDUAL. Which means that budgeting is not just mathematical, it’s emotional! The emotional aspect of personal finance can be the hardest part. It requires self-discipline, focus, and delayed gratification. It’s an emotional struggle to delay gratification! With our budget, we plan to enjoy staycations and day trips at Utah’s many state and national parks, but we also look forward to big trips that are important to our family.
Happy New Year! Not a lot changed at the end of 2016 for me, but the holiday is a break from school, so we took our family on a vacation. I started to say, “This was a budget trip," but I caught myself and stopped. I thought about how I was going to use the word budget. So many times we use the word budget to mean cheap. It was a cheap trip. So, I changed my wording and said, “It was a cheap trip.” Budgeting gets a bad reputation when it is used to mean being cheap. Budget doesn’t mean cheap. Budget means a plan. I like how I feel when I follow plans. Think about how you feel when you are following a health plan. Maybe over the holidays you ate without a plan (like I did), and maybe you felt pretty yucky (like I did). Think about the times when you did follow a plan to exercise and eat healthy. It is hard at the time, but I always love how I feel afterward. Over time, I see great results from following a health plan.
Imagine building your home without house plans! I have several friends building beautiful homes right now. I can guarantee that every inch of those homes was included in the plan in order for them to turn out the way that my friends want them to look.
Budgets are financial plans! How do you want your finances to look? If we could think of budgets like building our dream financial home, budgeting could change. We could be excited about it even though we may hate some of the work and discipline involved in the details. There are so many decisions to make when you build a home. Some are big decisions, like square footage and number of rooms. Some are small, like style of doorknobs. Some are almost permanent and some are temporary. It’s not easy to knock out a wall, but changing a door or the color of paint is relatively easy. The more you think about the details, the more likely you are to get the house that you want.
We have big financial decisions that impact us for years, and then we have minor ones that still impact us but not as much. How would our finances be different if we had to submit a plan before we could spend? Well, no permits are required in order to spend money. So, we have to require ourselves to budget. Budget is both a verb and a noun. It’s an actual piece of paper that details out what you will spend, but it is also a process of using that piece of paper and referring back to it before we spend. You don’t have to be perfect. Budgets are flexible. When we do make mistakes, we can change by remodeling. However, we can prevent having to redo a lot by planning!
I love the feeling of being on a plan and a budget, and even though I get off track in the holidays, it’s a NEW YEAR, and it’s a new month. What if we could change the way we view budgets and make them a part of our lives? They aren’t required of us like building plans are, but we can require them….every month. I can’t force you to do one. Wasatch Peaks can’t force you to do one. But we are here to help and encourage you to budget so that you can create the financial house that you want, and feel great about it! I promise you great results as you follow your financial plan over time.
Wasatch Peaks has the option to create Budgeter Accounts. This makes it easy to save and budget by allowing you to have up to 30 budgeting accounts withing your account to put money into and keep seperate for easy tracking. Each budgeting account has a specific name for each budgeting category (Rent, Insurance, School Expenses, Groceries, etc.) so that this budget plan can be customized just for you! It can be pre-set so money is automatically tranferred to your Budgeter Account from your savings or payroll and divided up into each budget account.
Every trip is a budget trip. Every decision is a budgeting decision! I am going to make my January budget right now and invite you to make yours! If you have any questions or want someone to help keep you accountable, please post. Please post your struggles with budgeting. For me there are a handful of categories (food, vacation, clothes) that I have to watch carefully, but the other categories are fixed and don’t require much. Where do you overspend?
Wasatch Peaks is pleased to continue offering CardNav™ by CO-OP for members with a Visa® Platinum Credit and/or Debit Card. CardNav is an app that lets you manage your cards by remote control from your smart phone.
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With CardNav, you can use GPS to restrict transactions to businesses within a designated area and limit card use to specific merchants or purchases. You can also use CardNav as a budgeting tool by setting personal spending limits and receiving alerts when you get close to those limits.
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This morning was hard to get up. My husband's alarm went off and I woke up to use the bathroom. My body felt sore. I felt the effects of the cookies, bacon, and chocolate covered popcorn, which I ate yesterday. I felt cold as soon as I got out of my bed. I wanted to go back to sleep. I felt gravity pulling me back to my warm bed. I thought of all the work ahead of me today. Except for the bathroom, every room looks like it experienced a tornado. Christmas was a busy day for my family. I visited 3 families, attended two church services, and had a sick child. The house was now a disaster zone. This can also happen financially over the holidays.
Somehow, I found the strength to walk past my bed without getting back into it. Somehow, I meditated and planned my day. This was a HUGE victory for me today. I think it was because Christmas gave me the belief that I can change. Seeing friends and family and feeling loved inspired me to keep trying. Experiencing kindness and generosity inspired me to want to keep moving forward. Even though I overspent, I can recommit. Even though the house is a mess, we can restore order one item and one room at a time. Sometimes we don't feel like waking up financially, but every day is a new day. If we mess up and give in to a purchase we didn't plan on, or miss a budget meeting, we can start again any and every day. In the big picture, it's not really going to matter that I spent a few more hundred dollars than I wanted to spend, as long as I keep trying.
During this holiday, several of my friends and family have told me that they want to get on top of their finances. They want to budget. They want to plan for taxes. They want to invest. These friends and family have asked my advice on budgeting and asked what app or system they should use. Some of them face huge obstacles in doing this, so I don't want to minimize how hard it can be to change financially. I will compare it to my experience with exercising.
I started exercising regularly a couple of months ago. At the gym, I am surrounded with healthy and strong people. I think about what they had to sacrifice to build the muscles that they have. It is a long and gradual process, and it can't be faked or sped up. There is no shortcut. I can't just be stronger because I want to be. For the first time, I have been weight lifting with a bar and weights. I started with just the bar and am adding small amounts. I can't just put a 35 pound weight on the bar and lift it. I have to sacrifice, plan, and build up the strength. I have to commit. On Christmas Eve I went to a hard interval training class. The teacher pushed herself and admitted it was hard, but at the end she encouraged us and played inspiring music that talked about getting back up and try again. I left feeling so inspired to celebrate my victories and keep trying.
There is no magical app that will make me in shape or get my friends to budget. It doesn't really matter what app you use. There are a lot of good tools, but there is no magical app that will force us to be disciplined. However, exercising at the gym helps inspire me. I believe I can get stronger.
Consider this blog to be your financial gym. Come here to believe that you can change, and surround yourself with people who are growing stronger physically and believing that they can improve. Happy New Years. Enjoy the holiday!