Q: My two teenage daughters, 13 and 15, are constantly begging me to buy them clothes. It’s become highly annoying. To stop the constant whining, I’ve decided to stop buying them any clothing and give them each an $800 annual clothing allowance. Should I give them the whole amount at once or give it to them on a monthly basis?
A: This is a great idea! However, I don’t think an annual clothing allowance of $800 is a realistic amount for girls who are outgrowing their clothes every six months to a year. If their clothing allowance is insufficient, then the whining is only going to worsen, and your plan is likely to blow up in your face.
I suggest that you give each of your girls a monthly amount that is sufficient to purchase a certain amount of discretionary clothing. I generally recommend between $50 and $100. You would continue to purchase necessary clothes, but you would spend only a minimum amount in each case. For example, if one of them requires a new winter jacket, that is your responsibility. If she doesn’t like the jacket you’re willing to buy (from a discount store), then you would give her that same amount of money and she would use her allowance to make up the difference in price. If she simply wanted an article of clothing that is nice but unnecessary, that would be her responsibility entirely.
The “cleanest” way to do this is to set up a checking account for each child at your bank. As long as you have good credit, the account doesn’t have overdraft protection, and you are willing to back it, most banks are willing to do this. You deposit the child’s monthly allowance in her account at the beginning of the month and she manages the account from there. In the event of a bounced check, the bank and merchant fines as well as what the merchant is owed come off the top of the following month’s allowance.
This plan teaches teens how to budget money and manage a checking account, but it also teaches them to curtail their spending impulses, plan ahead, and save for the proverbial rainy day. It’s a great way to prepare a youngster for the larger fiscal responsibilities of adulthood.
If you divide $800 by 12 months, then each daughter would receive $67 per month. I like that figure, but remember, you would continue to buy necessary clothing items. If you give each of them the full $800 at one time, they’re likely to blow it in less time than you can say “budget.”