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#ParentHack: Using a Teen Debit Card to Teach How to Manage Finances

Since our daughter started driving, she’s grown more independent. She now has the freedom to get out more often and be more active, but almost everything she does costs money … and she asks us for it often.

First, there’s the gas money she needs to get everywhere. Then, the cash needed for all of her different activities starts to add up—from school sporting events to dinners out with friends to Bible studies that meet at Starbucks to study groups that order pizza. It’s easy to lose track of how much we are doling out on a daily basis.

These activities are great, so we want to support her. But we also had to figure out a better way to manage all this spending and teach her how to handle her own finances, too.

How to Manage Spending

Step one:

We had her get a debit card. Since our daughter already has a bank account where her work checks are deposited, she could use a debit card linked to that account to purchase everything. Our daughter always checks with us before using it. She has an idea of which costs we will cover and those she will have to pay for herself. For instance, we’ll reimburse any food and drink costs related to meetings, church outings, and study groups. But she has to pay for her own food and drinks at social gatherings.

Step two:

At the end of every month, we review the details of her online statement together and go over her costs. The discussion includes itemizing her expenses to help her better understand where her money is going so she can spend more responsibly. As a result, our daughter has realized that too much of her money goes toward those regular Starbucks stops, so she now makes coffee at home, which has cut those costs dramatically. She still treats herself every now and then, but this was a good lesson to learn.

There are so many life skills we need to teach our teens before they leave home, and managing money is at the top of that list. Having her use a debit card and learn how to monitor her spending has greatly improved her financial literacy.

Christine Carter writes about motherhood and parenting, health and wellness, marriage, friendship, and faith. You can find her work on her blog,, and several online publications. She is the author of Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.” And Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World”. 

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