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Prioritizing your marriage over your wedding is a beautiful place to grow from. While the wedding day itself is dreamt of, saved for, and planned out, it can be magical without being financially detrimental. You’ll find you carry over some of the same conversations you had while planning your wedding while having conversations about preparing for marriage. What you two talk about in regard to how to save money for the big day will probably lead you to some great ideas you take with you after the wedding season.

It wouldn’t surprise me if you talked about:

  • Cutting down on how often you eat and drink out
  • Combining subscriptions like Netflix, Spotify or Apple Music
  • Buying some used things instead of buying all new things
  • Setting saving goals
  • Packing your lunch
  • Paying off debt
  • Asking friends and family if they have something you need

Research from the Gottman Institute shows that one of the biggest reasons couples fight is because of money. You can avoid this by getting on the same page and goal-setting together! When the two of you have a conversation about how you spend your money separately and how you can save together, you’ll find that while working as a team, you’re strengthening your relationship. You’ll inevitably align your priorities and practice making important decisions together. It’s a win-win. So let’s get down to business: You want to save money for your wedding, so here are some great ways to do so with a little advice from NerdWallet and my own wedding experience!

Money-Saving Tips for Planning Your Wedding:

  • If you’re expecting to be engaged soon, start saving. If you know the two of you are planning to get married, start saving as soon as possible! My husband and I looked at our monthly income and cost of living and found room where we could save. Some months we saved $500 each, some $300. You have to figure out what works best for you. The best part about starting a few months prior to being engaged is that we could pay for things as we made decisions and we knew we had stability from the get-go.
  • Consider having an intimate wedding! COVID-19 has made guests joining in over Zoom or Facebook Live sexy. All of the money you’ll save on food, beverages, a DJ, venue, extra hours from photographers, the rehearsal dinner with extended family, bridesmaids and groomsmen can go straight into investing in your own marriage! Maybe you can save money based on what you were willing to pay for a bigger wedding and put it away as an emergency or fun fund!
  • Skip the Saturday wedding. Planning your wedding for a Sunday or weekday can save you thousands! (I know from experience—my husband and I saved $1.5k by having a Sunday wedding.)
  • Think outside the box for a venue. Vacation home, if you know someone with property, government-owned historical sites, restaurants, State Parks (so, so cheap), etc.
  • Use the venue’s resources. Using a venue that offers chairs and tables is a huge plus! Ask what’s included.
  • Design and send your own invites. Go paperless for the younger friends! Canva has tons of free designs. The two best pro-tips I can give is to only send formal invites to those you know wouldn’t be as tech-savvy and email the rest. If you do decide to print, here is part 2: use Staples to print. Don’t upload your design as an invitation, but as a postcard! It cost us maybe $48 for 250 “Save the Dates” and postage costs less for postcards as well! We did the same things with our invitations but put them in an envelope and used the back as a place for more information. (P.S. The average cost for stationery/postage items like those listed is over $400… I just told you a way to do both for about $100). My wedding planner book told me to budget $800?!?
  • Buy Wholesale Flowers. You can put arrangements together yourself and save $150 alone on what people charge for making bridal bouquets!
  • Check the sale rack and wedding dress samples first! Your dress won’t be any less beautiful if you get a great deal.
  • Borrow anything you can! Everything from accessories, centerpieces from friends or family members who have gotten married, decorations… anything!
  • Cut down on a store-bought cake. Trust me, you don’t need as much cake as you think. Get a nice personal cake to cut into for you and your spouse and ask some friends and family to make the rest. This worked out beautifully for us.
  • Limit Plus-Ones. If someone isn’t seriously dating, they don’t need one! On the flip side, just because someone is dating, doesn’t mean you need to invite the significant other—especially if you aren’t close to them! If someone is coming from out of town, offering a plus-one to travel with is thoughtful.

Be up front with each other while planning your wedding and figure out what your priorities are. Remember, your wedding day is the beginning, but your marriage is the rest of the story. One of the best reasons to save money on your wedding is so you can invest directly into your marriage! Enjoy this season, but anticipate the sweetness that follows. Being married is just the best!! (I’m biased, but I’d like to think I’m also honest.)

If one of the top issues couples fight about is money, then a worldwide pandemic where uncertainty fills the air is certain to magnify financial disagreements. It’s to be expected.

Stimulus checks

Job uncertainty

Job layoffs and unemployment

Food and grocery shortages

Kids at home 24/7

Whether you were in a financial rhythm or not, the changes or potential changes can cause significant conflict. And it’s not because there’s too much or not enough money. It’s because you both have an opinion on what should or shouldn’t be done with the money. And there’s a good chance that you’re both certain that you’re right. 

There’s some frivolous things that people can spend money on that are not helpful for the current situation. However, that’s not what I’m trying to address. The question is: How can we come together and make financial decisions for our family in the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19?

Have Priorities Changed?

There’s an old saying, “If you want to know what’s important to someone, look at their bank statement.” It may be time for a discussion between the two of you regarding what is most important during this time of change and uncertainty. Prior to this quarantine, education, being debt-free, creating memorable experiences and family togetherness were tops on our list. We often tried to take advantage of several educational opportunities, feverishly paid down debts and would go all out to celebrate birthdays and holidays to create memorable experiences.

That’s changed—at least temporarily. Financial security, home improvement and family togetherness are top priorities now. We’re saving as much as possible and working on repairs as if we’re preparing to sell our home. 

Family togetherness is in both lists, but it’s interesting how they look different when you are trying to save money instead of focusing on creating memorable experiences. 

Couples that can come to an agreement on the current priorities take a huge step into making financial decisions together. Before deciding what to do with money, first agree with what’s important to the family.

As a Team, Assess Where You Are. 

Basic questions to answer: 

  • Do we have enough money for all of our current and necessary expenses? 
  • Do we need to cut spending? 
  • Is it possible to increase our income? 

The ability to answer these questions together helps couples lay a framework for working together. Notice, we haven’t made any financial decisions or judgments yet about what those changes should be. We’ve simply identified our priorities and our current situation.

We’re Not Making Enough Money. What Needs to Change?

First, look at each other and agree that you’re going to make it through this together. There may not be enough money because of a pay cut, a layoff, increased medical expenses or you’re subjected to a natural disaster. This may be the first time that one or both of you has ever been in this situation. Fear, panic and anxiety can begin to grab hold. Being in a marriage means being on the same TEAM. Not having to face new challenges alone. Hugs, Kisses, and Affirmation are priceless when the money is tight. Turn toward one another, not away from one another.

Looking at your bank statement and financial decisions for the last month or two is really helpful in knowing where the money went—especially when trying to eliminate spending on things that aren’t priorities. Discussing payment options and deferments is something that many companies are willing to do during this time of quarantine. Check out this great blog my colleague wrote about getting help when the money isn’t there.

The key is to look at all options with an open mind and be creative. It’s easy to be attached to certain practices. We can get trapped in the mentality that if we don’t do this thing we do every year, then we’ll ruin little Johnny’s life. Is that really true?

Phrases to Avoid When Working Together to Cut Spending

  • We can’t cut that. This statement stifles creativity. You may ultimately land on some things that can’t be cut, but before using this phrase, you must exhaust all options.
  • That’ll make them so mad. Changes often evoke emotional responses that we must learn to deal with.
  • There’s nowhere to cut. This statement also stifles creativity. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 

Have an Open Mind. Be Creative. Work Together. Be Willing to Compromise. 

Your preferences can’t always be more important than your partner’s preferences. If you’re constantly fighting about what to cut, you may choose to focus on increasing your income. You also may develop a system to alternate who chooses what to cut. This is probably going to be painful for all involved. But that’s OK, you’re doing it together.

Is Increasing Income an Option?

You may be surprised at all the industries that are hiring during this season: cleaning services, delivery services (both food and packages), grocery stores, and landscaping, just to name a few. You may be good at tutoring or making specialty items of value. This may be the time to market your services. They may not fully replace your income. However, it may be better than nothing. 

Agreeing on the Assistance You Receive

Whether it’s the stimulus check, unemployment or any other infusion of cash, it’s important that the two of you agree about it before you spend it. You may likely have two different opinions on what to do with the money. Do we catch up on bills? Save it? Fix the car? Resubscribe to Netflix? 

Don’t feel like you have to make the decision the moment you get the money. Just be sure to work together. My wife and I have made an agreement that any infusion of cash cannot be spent until we come to an agreement together. Look at your necessities and priorities and work from there. 

Work Together—Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

This can be an anxious time. We can be susceptible to scams, quick fix payday loans, predatory loan sharks, and addictions. Committing to connect with one another to talk about money, to talk about life and to talk about your emotions can heighten your emotional security and peace when you’re not sure if you can pay the light bill this month. 

However, with the right attitude toward one another and a commitment to working together as a team, the two of you can navigate through anything and be stronger for it.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

It is fair to say that we are all thinking about money at the moment. Let’s be honest – most of us do not have 6 months, 6 weeks, heck, not even 6 days saved up in our emergency fund.  

These are unprecedented times that we are facing and there is not a great road map out there for how to deal with all these pressures hitting at once. To help you get through this with some financial peace of mind, make sure you and your significant other are on the same page (no hidden accounts or, oops, forgot to tell you about that credit card), everything needs to literally be out on the table.

Start by figuring out what you have coming in and what you have going out. Once you have this down, then start looking at where you might need help.  

I am going to start making some generalizations the rest of the way, but please reach out and communicate your individual situation with all of your financial life connections.

On the banking front, think mortgage, car loans, personal loans, credit cards (yep, all of them) and student loans. Definitely call them before you miss a payment if you can. They also might be able to defer payments – you will still have to make them, but not today. Think about bills that might be auto-drafting and decide if you want to cancel the payment. Your bank is there to help you. Call each and every credit card you have and ask them about how they are helping people during this time.  

A lot of utilities (think about your water, electric, cell phone, internet) want to help but you have to reach out to them. Ask about assistance programs, ask if they will defer a payment or two. Will they provide a wifi hotspot so you can get online access to work from home? Most utilities have suspended cutoffs for the next 30 – 60 days, but still, call them if you are having a hard time making the payment.  

Also please be aware of scams during this time. Please avoid any pay-day or cash advance loans. Call your bank first – they are there to help you. Be careful with “offers” that come in the mail. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!  If YOU can’t figure out a so-called debt relief “program” on a napkin then run for the hills.

If you get laid off or have already lost your job during this time, go file for unemployment. It won’t replace all of your income but it may be just enough to help you stay afloat.  

During these uncertain financial times, please know you are not alone. Reach out to your bank, credit card issuers and utilities early and let them know your concerns. Make sure they know your financial situation so they can help you. Reach out to your friends so they can help and hook you up with other resources. You will get through this – you just might need a little help.

There’s been a steady decline in marriage rates over the past few decades. While some studies blame the decline on gender ratio discrepancies and millennials just not being interested in marriage, a 2019 Cornell University study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF) says the root cause might be that there aren’t as many men who are economically stable and therefore are not attractive to women looking for a mate.

The study notes that ethnic minorities, especially African American women, are dealing with very low numbers of economically attractive potential mates.

Researchers found that attractive potential husbands had an average income approximately 58% higher than the current unmarried men.

“Most American women hope to marry but current shortages of marriageable men—men with a stable job and a good income—make this increasingly difficult, especially in the current gig economy of unstable low-paying service jobs,” said lead author Daniel T. Lichter, Ph.D., of Cornell University in their media release. “Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction. Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women’s educational levels on average now exceed their male suitors.”

A 2016 study, also published in the JMF, found that women have made greater educational gains than men during the past few decades in the U.S. Among newlyweds:

  • The percentage of couples in which the husband had more education than the wife declined from 24 percent in 1980 to 15 percent in 2008–2012.
  • The share of couples in which the wife had more education than the husband increased from 22 percent to 29 percent during the same period.
  • If two spouses differed in their level of education, in 1980 the husband was more likely be more educated, but from 2008 to 2012, the wife was more likely to have more education.

Less than a decade ago, Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo and Kay Hymowitz, fellow at the Manhattan Institute, expressed their concerns about what is happening to boys. Each made comments similar to “pre-adult men often seem like children, filling their leisure time with video games, Adam Sandler movies, indie bands, beer pong and the company of inebriated women.”

Along with them, others were raising voices of concern, stating these 2011 statistics:

  • Boys are 30 percent more likely to drop out or flunk out of school than girls.
  • Girls now outperform guys at every level from elementary to graduate school.
  • Two-thirds of all students in special education are boys.
  • Boys are five times more likely to be labeled ADHD.
  • By the time boys are 21, they have played more than 10,000 video games, mostly in isolation.
  • The average boy watches 50 porn clips a week.

Zimbardo noted that one of the most interesting things he was seeing in his research is what he refers to as the “social intensity syndrome” where guys prefer the asynchronistic internet world over the spontaneous interaction in social relationships.

Many studies show that boys continue to lag behind girls. Additional studies show that the gap is widening as women continue to make educational and financial gains and are seeking to marry men who are also educated and financially secure. Both of these studies published in the JMF indicate that women want to marry, but can’t find a partner they consider to at least be their educational and financial equal.

None of this means that a woman (or a man) should marry for money instead of love or that they should believe that who makes the money or how much each person makes won’t impact their relationship. There is plenty of research indicating that money impacts marital stability and is often the source of much stress in marriage, especially when expectations around money go unspoken, which isn’t helpful to the relationship. It is important for couples to be on the same page when it comes to money, education and expectations.

Instead, the question for us is, “Why are boys lagging behind?” and what can we do about it? What will we do about it? We will continue to fail our boys and our girls if we sit back and do nothing, but the results of that would seemingly be disastrous for men, women and children.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on September 27, 2019.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The average college student will graduate with about $37,000 in student loans, but few students really think about repaying that money after graduating. In fact, many new college students haven’t thought much at all about money management, much less paying off student loans at the end of their four years.

Results from a survey of 455 college students by LendEdu found that:

  • 58% indicated they are not saving anything.
  • 30% indicated their parents taught them nothing about managing money.
  • 51% received no financial education in high school.
  • 43% are not tracking their spending.

Bryan Bulmer, Coordinator for Financial Wellness at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, knows this all too well. He has worked with college students to help them learn financial literacy.

“There are two kinds of students I typically see in my office: students who have been taught about money management and have grasped the concepts and those who really have never been shown the impact of money or lack thereof,” says Bulmer. 

In his student presentations, Bulmer uses a giant Jenga game to show the impact of frivolous spending. For example, buying that cup of coffee each day Monday through Friday is about $100 a month. After four years, the student will have spent $5,000 on coffee alone.

“That usually gets their attention because nobody ever thinks about how much that small amount adds up to over time,” Bulmer says. “Our goal is to help them know how to be wise with their money.”

When Bulmer asks students how many of them want to move back home after college, he says not a single hand goes up. However, 60% of them do move back home. Plus, a whopping 39% of them will still be living at home into their mid to late-20s.

Studies show that annual take-home pay for the average recent college graduate is around $36,000. Bulmer breaks this down for his students this way: If you have a car, college and credit card payments, that will probably take about $1,000. That leaves you $2,000 for everything else including rent, which is usually another $1,000.  So that leaves you only $1,000 for groceries, car insurance, internet and such.

“Pretty quickly the students begin to realize that while it sounds like a lot of money, it really isn’t if you don’t learn how to manage it well,” Bulmer says.

If you want to help your college student be financially literate, Bulmer suggests that you:

  • Involve the student in the family finances. Let them see what it takes to keep the lights and water on, the cost of Wi-Fi and keeping the refrigerator filled with food.
  • Talk with them about how credit works. Credit card companies are notorious for stalking freshmen and older college students with deals that are too good to be true, and plenty of them fall for it only to find themselves in debt way over their heads. They often have no idea how to get out.
  • Teach them the basics of money management (e.g. banking, paying bills, safe use of debit cards, MobilePay, ID theft and such).
  • Address student loan requirements. If your student is taking out student loans, make sure they know what this means in four years. Some students are not aware that they have student loans. This should not be a surprise to them when they graduate.

Having a college degree gives many people an advantage. According to the National Financial Educators Council, studies show college graduates will earn almost a half-million dollars more over their lifetime than someone who has not received their college degree. But, if they have no concept of personal finances and how to manage the money they are earning, it will be of no benefit to them. 

“All of our students who come into our office that are financial literate give credit to their parents for helping them be literate,” Bulmer says. “Statistical information says 34 percent of students feel financially literate and that 37 percent of parents share financial literacy skills with their students. I believe those numbers show parents are the number one provider of financial literacy skills in the lives of their children.”

Give your kids the edge they need for future success by teaching them how to manage money wisely now, regardless of their age. 

This article was originally published
in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on July 21, 2019.

“I had no idea how much planning was involved in getting married,” remembers Amy Carter. “On top of wedding plans, my fiancé and I were trying to sell my condo so I could move to Nashville. Fortunately, both of our families were very supportive of us as we planned for our big day. I was surprised how much my mother and I agreed on details of the wedding.”

Carter is lucky. Many couples preparing for their wedding day find themselves between a rock and a hard place by trying to please their parents, siblings, friends, grandparents and others who have an opinion on how the wedding should go. One bride’s mother refused to help because her daughter preferred a small and intimate wedding instead of a large formal affair.

Most experts agree that planning for a wedding is something most brides and their moms look forward to. Things can get a bit sticky, though. But don’t fear; there are some things you can do to help avert bitter feelings.

First and foremost, this is your day. Others may give their opinion about how things should go, but ultimately the bride and groom get to have the final say.

“We are probably different than most couples because we were more concerned about doing it the way that made us comfortable instead of being so concerned with stepping on toes,” says Rebecca Smith. “We set the rules early.

“There were certain things that I really didn’t care about, like the flowers. When my mom asked me what I wanted, I told her whatever she picked out would be fine. For us the overriding theme was we are incredibly excited about being married. We don’t want our focus on the wedding to be more than our focus on our marriage.”

At some point during the planning process, Rebecca and her fiancé acknowledged that something could go wrong. They eventually realized it really didn’t matter because they would still be married. They didn’t pursue a perfect production.

According to the experts, the Smiths would get an “A” in wedding planning.

Here are some additional tips to help you have the wedding day of your dreams:

  • Decide what matters most to you. You can’t give 100 percent of your attention to everything, so decide where you want to focus and delegate the other things. This is a great way to involve family members without feeling like they are trying to control your day.

  • Decide on a realistic budget. Although the average wedding today costs between $20,000 – $25,000, couples can have a beautiful wedding for significantly less money. Since money is the top area of conflict for couples, one way to begin your marriage well is to be realistic about your finances. Know what you and your family can comfortably afford. The amount of money spent is not a determining factor in the success of your marriage.

  • Plan for your marriage. It is easy to get so caught up in your wedding planning that you neglect to plan for your marriage – all those days after the wedding. Take time out to attend premarital education classes or a marriage seminar. Read a good book together, like Fighting for Your Marriage: A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce or Before “I Do”: Preparing for the Full Marriage ExperienceYour marriage will be stronger if go into it with your eyes wide open.

  • Enjoy this time. Even though the preparation may be a bit stressful, schedule your time so you can truly enjoy these special moments. For many, this is a once in a lifetime experience. Instead of looking back at a whirlwind of activity that you really don’t remember, take non-essential things off the calendar. Rest adequately, eat well and don’t let others steal your joy.

For many years social scientists have been warning society about the cost of family fragmentation. There have been ongoing discussions concerning the impact on children and adults emotionally, educationally, economically, physically and in other areas of life. A 2008 report reveals the economic cost of family fragmentation to taxpayers.

According to The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing, by the Institute for American Values, The Georgia Family Council, The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and Families Northwest, divorce and unwed childbearing conservatively cost taxpayers $122 billion annually. The costs are due to:

  • Increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty,
  • Criminal justice and education programs, and
  • Lower levels of tax revenue from those negatively affected by family fragmentation and increased childhood poverty.

“In 1970 the number of children residing in two-parent families was 85 percent,” said Dr. Ben Scafidi, principal investigator for the report. “In 2005, only 68.3 percent of children reside in two-parent families. This is a dramatic decrease over a short amount of time. Clearly we are seeing the impact.”

Long-standing research shows the potential risks to children from broken homes include:

  • Poverty,
  • Mental illness,
  • Physical illness,
  • Infant mortality,
  • Lower educational attainment,
  • Juvenile delinquency,
  • Conduct disorders,
  • Adult criminality, and
  • Early unwed parenthood.

“This report isn’t just about the money; we are talking about real people and real suffering,” said Randy Hicks, president of the Georgia Family Council. “The economic and human costs make family fragmentation a legitimate public concern for all of us. Historically, Americans have resisted the impulse to surrender to negative and hurtful trends. We fight problems like racism, poverty and domestic violence because we understand the stakes are high. And while we’ll never eliminate divorce and unwed childbearing entirely, we can certainly be doing more to help marriages and families succeed.”

The 2008 report sponsors say this is not a slam toward divorced people or single parents. It is purely providing information that we have never had before, and it could be an opportunity for communities to take grassroots prevention efforts to the next level.

So what can YOU do?

  • If you have a teen, encourage them to participate in healthy relationship skills class.
  • If you’re engaged, participate in skill-building classes that teach you how to have a healthy, long-lasting marriage.
  • If you’re in a healthy, long-lasting marriage, encourage newlyweds and offer wisdom along their journey.
  • If you belong to a religious organization, look for ways to engage couples and families in ongoing programming that seeks to meet them where they are and give them skills, hope, words of encouragement and a network from which to draw strength in tough times.
  • If you’re in a business setting, make sure your employees know about community resources and encourage them to take advantage what is available.
  • If your marriage is in trouble or distress, seek help.

It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The report states that a 1 percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.1 billion annually. This doesn’t even take into account the heartache and emotional upheaval that could potentially be prevented if this report is seen as a call to action to the people of our country.

Everywhere you turn these days it seems everybody is talking about the economy and its impact. Financial experts often discuss the dangers of people living beyond their means, and it seems that many are reaping the consequences of doing so. But despite the financial woes, is it all bad?

Clearly families are getting hit hard. Studies indicate that for years now, close to 43 percent of American families have spent more than they earned, buying anything they wanted. Now, they are being forced to rethink their spending habits – and it is incredibly painful.

Research shows that although money is not the number one thing couples consider when planning to marry, it is the number one thing they argue about. Instead of being happily married, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills.

An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on their credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15,609 in credit card debt.

When it comes to spending money, the temptations are plentiful – shiny new cars with the latest gadgets, flat screen televisions, traveling sports leagues, private schools, a new house, surround sound systems, trendy clothing, iPhones – and the list goes on.

Believer it or not, emotions typically drive spending decisions instead of affordability. When it comes to money, a lot can be said about the value of self-discipline and saving to purchase certain items or participate in an activity.

People often complain that family members are like ships passing in the night because of busyness. Maybe the upside of an uncertain economy is that people might step back and evaluate what really matters.

When asked what is most important in life, people consistently say “family” is the single most important priority; yet their lives indicate that money and things are number one.

These ideas can help you make family a higher priority than money.

  • Focus on building strong, healthy relationships instead of empires. Children spell love T-I-M-E, not T-H-I-N-G-S. There is no downside to living within your means – both financially and time-wise. It could actually mean less stress, more family time, less maintenance, more downtime, fewer arguments and stronger relationships.

  • Evaluate all of your family activities. Find ways to exercise together, not apart. Exchange gym fees, travel sports and golfing alone to play with the family instead. Instead of paying to play, choose free family hobbies like playing tennis, biking or hiking. It will save you money and time.

  • Learn how to control your finances instead of letting them control you. Many people believe that more money, a bigger house, and tons of toys are necessary for happiness. Money and toys are no substitute for time, so spend time with the people you love.

  • Look for opportunities to encourage your loved ones and affirm them as a person worthy of your love.

When you look back on an economic crisis, perhaps you will see that less of some things is more of the best things. You may also see that many of the best things in life truly are free.

For a group of people who typically don’t have full-time jobs, teens certainly have a lot of money to spend. In 2014, MarketingVox/Rand Research Centers found that roughly 41 million kids ages 10-19 in the United States spend $258.7 billion annually. They spend it on everything from fashion to electronics, but where do they get their money? And, is it a good thing?

It seems like more teens than ever before have part-time jobs that keep money in their pockets,” said Tracy Johnson, educational specialist with Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Chattanooga. “Either they are working or their parents give them money. Regardless, what we are seeing is many people spending huge amounts of money, yet they really don’t know how to manage what they have.”

Parents should start teaching children about money early on.

“Money is associated with power,” Johnson said. “If we don’t teach children how to handle that power appropriately by managing their money, they can end up being a slave to it. Giving your child an allowance is an easy way to help your child begin to grasp money management skills. As your child gets older and the amount of money increases, you can teach them new skills.”

By the time your teen graduates from high school, he/she should know how to build a budget and live within it. Teens should also know how to balance a checkbook, put money in savings and have an idea about home maintenance costs.

In order to teach these skills, Johnson recommends the following:

  • Don’t give your teen things like a car or a cell phone without teaching them about the costs associated with them: Insurance, gas, tires and 3,000 mile tune-ups all cost money. Most young people only think about getting the car and putting gas in it or getting a cell phone and using it. What happens when your teen goes over their limits on the phone or racks up a huge bill?

  • Teach your teen about credit cards. Teens often see parents use credit cards to buy everything from groceries to gas, but they never see them pay the bill. No wonder they think money grows on trees! Credit card companies target teens, especially when they are away at college. It’s hard to walk away from a $2,000 credit limit when you don’t have to pay anything up front. If your teen maxes out the card at $2,000, doesn’t charge anything else on the card but starts paying back the $40 minimum monthly payment at 21% interest, it will take 10-12 years to pay it off. At that point, your teen has paid $5,060 – more than double the original charge. Teens need to understand how to use credit wisely.

  • Teach your teen to spend less than he/she makes. Expenses should never exceed income. Many people say, “If I just had a little bit more, I would be fine.” But if you can’t make ends meet on $25,000, you won’t be able to make ends meet at $30,000. The more you make, the more you spend.

  • Delayed gratification is a good thing. Teach your teen how to budget and save for the things he/she wants. It will mean more if they had to work for it.

  • If you don’t have great money management skills yourself, consider attending a free budget counseling session for your family at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Chattanooga.

“There are many easy ways to teach teens about handling money,” Johnson said. “Instead of letting money burn a hole in their pocket, give them a good financial foundation before they leave the safety of your home.”