How Do Teens Spend Their Money?

Teenagers are overloaded with school and sometimes after-school activities, sports, and work. Money is valuable and precious, especially for high schoolers since their savings are more limited. Most students are paid minimum wage or below and some feel strongly about obtaining spending money. “When I don’t have any money I can’t go out and do fun things that make me happy. I can do things that provide me happiness with money,” says Avery Dumeny. 

Longmeadow High School’s 11th and 12th-grade students were sent a survey to capture information about their outside jobs and spending. This information is combined with 8 other students to synthesize students’ spending as well as capture their morals around money. 

The human population runs its life around money. We are expected to pay our share of expenses, which means that the general population has to budget their money. Math teacher Jill Murphy advises students to not “spend more than you make!”

Although money is something we crave, does it really make us happy? Seven students said yes, and one student said no. Money only buys happiness “to a certain degree and it can’t inherently bring happiness, but having money in a capitalized economy lowers stress, and lowering stress brings happiness,” said Aiden Rajczewski. Those who have money feel more secure, which leads to overall happiness. 

However, some believe happiness comes from within. “I would be perfectly fine doing something that doesn’t involve money because buying things I want won’t keep my happiness around. It’s not going to provide a lifetime of happiness as memories will,” said Isabella Vega. Vega believes money can provide good in the world, but not direct joy or achievement. 

A common question asked in society is if money contributes to success: “In this world yes. Money is everything. Economic status is, unfortunately, the defining factor for a lot of people,” says Audrey Chasen. She believes we are forced into this system and to be successful in the modern world we must confine ourselves to these standards. 

Out of the 108 students who responded to the survey, 46.2% expressed not having a job, while 57.4% of students do have a job. 8 students work 15 hours a week (the highest average amount of hours) and 11 students don’t work at all (the lowest amount of hours). 

Since there is a significant split between upperclassmen working vs not working, where they get their spending money will also differ. 38.3% of students said they get their spending money from their own budget, 16.8% obtain money from their parents, and 44.9% have a combination of both. Evidently, most students have a high level of financial support from their families. 

 High school students are constantly spending money, so what are these students spending their money on? 

Students identified purchases they made that brought enjoyment to them. Some chose practical items such as “my car because it gets me places,” says McKenna Williams. She explains how her car is useful to her, which brings her joy. Others also focused on materialistic items. The iPhone 14 was a student’s favorite purchase “because my phone was old, the screen was cracked, and I didn’t have a lot of storage,” says Avery Dumeny. Everyday items can bring enjoyment to people because having the next new thing makes individuals feel included.  

In order to have access to these everyday items individuals need a steady income. I asked these eight students what they would do if given a surplus of money.

If given a million dollars, some students would choose to invest it in themselves, while others have different priorities. “My first thought would not be to donate to charity, and I honestly doubt that I would donate much of it at all,” said Spencer Williams-Estevez. 

On the other hand, Vega would do good with her one million dollars by “giving half to a leukemia cancer charity because my sister died from leukemia,” says Vega. This doesn’t explicitly provide happiness for her but helps support an organization working towards a good cause. 

Contrasting from positive purchases, some students express their regrets about certain items when they could have handled their money more adequately. “I regret losing $500 in stocks,” says Joey Leander in a sorrowful tone. Although he believes money goes hand and hand with happiness, he regrets being hasty about his decisions. He enjoys earning money because “it’s satisfying to make money and see it grow,” says Leander proudly. 

Purchase regrets also come in physical form such as “clothing that I wanted at the moment, but later on, it wasn’t as exciting,” says Elizabeth Cowley. Self-control is crucial when it comes to money and small items we see at the store can be compelling. 

Out of the 8 students surveyed, they spent between $100 and $1,000 per month on personal expenses. I asked these same students how much money they spend on school-related expenses. The prices ranged from $50-$400 and the remaining four students spent zero dollars. It is clear that most upperclassmen at Longmeadow High School receive funding from their parents to supply their school expenses. 

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