Kids And Finances

What Should My Teenager Pay For?

teenage money, children budgeting, teenage allowance

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

There’s no manual to being a parent. Every phase of their development is as new for them as it is for us. We just sort of wing it as we go along, especially with our first born. We can draw upon our own childhood experiences and choose a similar path to our parents’ or we can handle our children differently. Which is where I sit squarely now that my son has his first job and is collecting the fruits of his own labor.

What expenses that he personally incurs should I make him responsible for?

Cell Phone:

We upgraded our phones recently, with all our phones being on the AT&T Next plan. That essentially means that we make a monthly payment towards each of our phones. Do we have him take over the payment of the physical phone, the phone and his actual service, both, or neither?

Car Insurance:

Our car insurance went up when he got his license. When I was a teenager, my parents expected me to pay the difference. Should I do the same with my son?


He drives the car, should he be expected to fill up the tank? I certainly was expected to.

Car Maintenance:

Every 3000 miles the car needs an oil change. Since he’s the primary driver of the car, should he be paying for the oil changes?

Alright Clever Friends…if I know you, you’ve been mentally answering these questions as you read them. Take a minute to go back through these four items, and make sure have decided which way you would go.

Now, let me tell you what my wife and I decided.

Cell Phone : NO

We’ll continue paying for the cellphone and the service for the simple fact that we want him to have a phone. We want to have that direct line of communication with him. I will, however, make him aware of how much it is costing us each month.

Car Insurance: YES

This is a bill that increased directly because he got his license. We’ll think of this as a, “Pay for the privilege to drive” fee.

Gasoline : YES

Absolutely YES. We’ll put gas in if we use the car too, but if he’s going to drive, he has to fuel the ride.

Car Maintenance: NO

Right now he’s driving our car. Since it is our vehicle, we pay for maintenance including oil changes, brakes, tires or any other item that needs repair or replacement. That’s not to say he won’t be involved in the process though. I may put money into his account and go tell him to have some service work done on the vehicle.

My goal as a parent is to find a balance between teaching him about the responsibility of paying bills, but also not consuming all his money and allowing him to save for his own car, college, or just having fun as a high school student should.

How about you readers, what would you do?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • When I was a student and living with my parents, our agreement was that I would pay for everything when I was working and they would pay my cell phone and insurance when I was in school and not working unless I had saved up enough money from my co-op jobs/internships.

    In high school, I was paying for all since I had a part time job and no other expenses. But since I was paying for my own University, which is not cheap, they helped me out by taking care of some bills. That helped smooth out my expenses so I wouldn’t get into more debt than I was already in.

  • @young Millennial – I can definitely see that we’ll have to revisit when my son goes off to college. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  • We have a bit of different perspective since our kids are open enrolled in a neighboring school district and have been for years. I was so relieved when our oldest got his license and I didn’t have to do that driving any longer.

    We decided to cover his gas money too and from school. We have a lot of history with that drive and know how much gas it uses. We use a gas card to keep track of the money he spends and to call him out if need be. Instead of paying an increase in insurance, he is required to have the amount of the insurance deductible in an account that he cannot touch.

    Conversely, he pays for all of his own clothing, activities, food away from home, shoes, etc. Those are items that benefit him directly whereas, in our case, driving actually benefits me.

  • @Tracie – I can certainly see your perspective. If your son driving to and from school saves you time, It’s definitely worth funding that trip. I like the idea of having him pay for his clothing though – thanks for the tip!

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