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Help Your Teen Become a Wise Consumer

While the nature of teenhood involves endless trips to the mall with lots of money dropped on makeup or at the video arcade, when it comes to major purchases, your teen wants to get the most “bang for the buck,” just as you do. You can help him learn the art of wise shopping:

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According to a 1994 study conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, teens have real spending power. They spend nearly $100 billion a year ($63 billion of it their own money). Teen boys spend an average of $44 per week of their own money, while girls spend $34.

  • Preach against carrying a lot of cash. This guards against catastrophic loss and also teaches Good Consumer Tip #1: Resist buying on impulse.
  • Teach her to consider the life span of everything from a sweater set to a used car. “Is this really worth the money?” “Will it last?” And when appropriate: “Is it durable?” “How much trouble will it be to take care of?” “Will it shrink?”
  • Teach about comparison shopping for a better price and a better product.
  • Encourage him to benefit from the experience of others by talking to people who own what they are shopping for: Do they like it? Did they have any problems?
  • Help non-drivers get to sales. They'll love being able to afford more because they're paying less!
  • Owning “label” items is a rite of passage for teens who are trying to carve out an identity for themselves. Tampering with this compulsion is likely to bring on a fight that you'd rather avoid. If a certain make of jeans or sneakers is a “must,” you might mention the premium that is charged for the label (don't nag, just offer a point of information), and point out other areas where your teen—who may now be running low on funds—might buy off-brands and save.
  • Discuss the costs of things, not in terms of dollars but in energy spent: Are new rollerblades worth 40 hours of babysitting or six lawn jobs? They may look at purchases in a new light when viewed in this way.
  • Zillions magazine is a kid-version of Consumer Reports. The magazine rates everything from best frozen pizza and toothpaste to computer games and boom boxes. Ask to see a copy at your library.
  • Any teen making a major purchase (electronics gear? computer accessories? CD player?) should know about Consumer Reports, also available at your local library. By teaching your teen the art of doing homework before making major purchases, you'll be giving her a gift that will last a lifetime.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager © 1996 by Kate Kelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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