Teaching a Teen to Budget?

September 22, 2017

My 18 year old son (high school graduate via GED) just got his first job. It's part-time, 23 - 30 hours/week at $10/hr. So far he is on his 8th paycheck and has blown it all. Each week, he promises to start saving but doesn't. He says it's his money and he'll decide. So, we have to drive him 5 days per week. He is learning to drive, but it will be awhile for sure. He is actually afraid to drive, but my husband is starting to make him do the driving to and from work.


What I would like is some information on how he should be budgeting. Generally, his check is gone on the same day he gets it. Uses it for paying back loans to others, junk food and drinks, and "recreational medicine"! What percentages should we use for budgeting? He is completely oppositional, but I must keep trying. What percentage should we ask for rent? Savings? Recreation? What else? Since his weekly income varies, set amounts do not seem practical.

We often have to give him rides or give his friends rides home after they find a way to our house. Sometimes the rides are 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hrs round trip. What about paying for my time? Gas? I don't mind short rides home and local, but these kids travel. His room is a pig pen and he refuses to do chores. Even if he were great with his money he wouldn't be able to get out on his own with part-time hours. He can't find roommates because kids like this really don't have friends for much more than a few weeks. They are best friends one week, dissing each other the next. No common sense. Has anyone else been there done that successfully? I'm afraid to throw him out because of where he will end up on the street. He only knows the bad crowd because he is desperate to fit in. Every day is a constant battle. He is adopted. He has lots of anger which is directed at me mostly. He quit therapy.


Diamond Post Medal for All Time! 1,246 Posts
September 22, 20171 found this helpful
Best Answer

I was actually that 18 year old once and my parents did not take my behaviour longer than a week! The rules they enforced on me totally worked. Here are some tips.


  • Figure out the gas mileage and for the trips and multiply that by the rate of gas. That is still being generous as you're putting wear and tear on your automobile.
  • The rides for friends cannot be free especially at that distance. Uber and Lyft exist, and Waze does carpool for cheap now. If those aren't acceptable to them, charge a matching rate.
  • You don't necessarily have to charge rent but some money needs to be put in for food. Teach him to go grocery shopping, with you first to start. I didn't realize how much went into it until I was forced to do it myself. (I became so grateful!)
  • Start an interest bearing savings account for him. When he sees that some money comes back to him for just having money sit in the bank, it becomes appealing and eye-opening.
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  • Chores are a must, especially because he's living there. There should be a penalty of $50 a week if they are missed.
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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
September 22, 20171 found this helpful

Your son, whether adopted or biological, needs to learn to be a contributing member of a family and society. I have some suggestions.

  • A written contract is an absolute necessity. Tell him the free ride is over. He can have an input into a fair amount for his rent, food utilities and phone. I paid rent to my parents and my son paid rent to me. There are no free rides in life. You can give him a bargain rate; we charged 25% of his salary.
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  • The contract should include chores. He needs to keep his room and bathroom clean. If he uses the kitchen, he needs to leave it as clean as he found it.
  • The contract should also include behavior. Recreational medicine is not allowed under your roof. If he needs therapy/medications, that comes under the contract as well
  • If he breaks any terms of the contract, there are consequences to pay. There should also be rewards if he complies.

It is hard work at first, but he will appreciate it in the end.

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 105 Posts
September 22, 20171 found this helpful

This is a difficult situation because he is your son and you love him whether he is adopted or not. First off you will have to decide what is best for you and your husband when setting down the rules of your home. Even if he is 18 he still lives under your roof and you are paying the bills.


  1. Rent his room to him. You can ask him for 150 dollars a month for room rent.
  2. He will need to pay 1 tank of gas each week that you drive him back and forth to work.
  3. When his friend's ask for rides home, they will pay you 5 or 10 dollars each for your time, car expense, and gas to take them home. They found a way to your home, they should be able to find a way back.
  4. You will need to establish house rules for keeping his room clean, the bathroom and the kitchen. If he can't do this then he will need to pay a maid service - that is you - for cleaning up after him. You can charge him 5 dollars an hour, which is half of what he earns for working. This will teach him that nothing in life is for free.
  5. He will need to open a bank account and start putting 15 percent of his pay in the account each week to save for a car. It will be up to him to buy the car or you can go in on the car with him once you see he is saving for a car.
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  7. He will need to add another 5 percent of his pay per week for insurance. At this age insurance is expensive and he will need to pay his insurance on the car.
  8. You can decide if his food is included in his room rent or not. If not, ask him for a portion of the food bill each week. He is eating there and so are his friends.
  9. If you are afraid to throw him out and he has anger issues make it a part of the contract that he needs to continue to see his doctor for these issues.

You have done all you can and have given him a good life. Now in order to teach him to be a responsible adult he needs to act like one and pay his own way. It is hard, but in your case it is necessary. I never had to do this with my daughter and I never asked her to pay rent to me.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 433 Posts
September 22, 20170 found this helpful

I have teens too one is very difficult and does nothing to help in the house.She does not even work.Even though we offered her a newspaper job.She would not do it.She also is very angry and she disrupts the whole house hold.I do not provide her with any extra stuff except for food,clothes just what I have to by law.
The other kid's work and help in the house.They save 10 percent or more every pay.They also give dad gas money for driving them to work.
I know just how you feel.Disrespected,and used.It may be just a stage that will pass.
I would not drive his friends home unless he provided gas money.
Since he is 18 I would charge him twenty dollars a week for rent.

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
September 23, 20170 found this helpful

I have raised 6 children (4 sons/2 daughters) and reading your account and all of the answers makes me realize how very fortunate I was as I never had to deal with problems like this.

  • I believe my first question would be; where is your husband in all of this? Does he have any place in handling this problem? Does your son seem to resent you more than his dad? Are you always having to play the part of the "bad guy"? Is there any chance your husband can help you set up some rules and help you back them up?
  • I believe that all responders are basically saying the same thing ~ just a little different version.
  • I am just wondering if these kind of problems were going on before he got a job and have now escalated because he has his "own" money..
  • If he was in therapy then it must mean he has been having a few serious problems for some time.
  • How did you decide to send him to therapy? Since he has a GED did he have problems at school and/or quit before graduation? Probably had some of the same "friends" during that time also.
  • You do know that whatever you allow to go on or be done in your home means you approve of it being done???

I believe this is the type of problem that many times is called "tough love" and is very, very hard to keep up the rules set out.

My only suggestion would be to print out the answers given and try to pick out a few that are the most important right now as there will be no way to enforce a complete change over at one time.
I believe you and your husband should review these problems and suggestions together; present them together and enforce them together.

Please do not set up rules that you cannot enforce and cannot continue as that would be an even greater losing battle.
I commend you for trying to face this problem without "prettying it up" and hopefully you will be in the winner's circle in a few months.
I wish you luck with your son as this will be a very slow unhappy battle but he should come out of it a much better person and a credit to society.

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