Clothing Budget for Teens

Archived Q&A and Reviews


14-year-old's expensive clothing requests

Jan 2009

My 14 year old is into brand name clothes. The jeans that are $200 each and tops that are over $100. I admit these look cute on her, but it terrifies me to be spending this type of money in our current economy with budget cuts right and left and so many people out of work. I'm at risk of getting IOU's from the state starting next month. Every night this week she has come to me asking me for yet another piece of clothing. I believe she has plenty and certainly much more than I ever had anytime in my lifetime! Please help me with verbage to say to her, systems that are working in your home or ways you have handled similar situations. We are going to use up all our resources if this continues and although there is a lot of peer pressure, and I definitely don't want her to feel out of place with her clothes (she says everyone dresses like this at school) this seems foolish to me. She is a great student, works very hard in school, studies without any pressure and donates a portion of her allowance to charity. She also babysits but says she is saving her money for college. Please help me with this and be kind in your responses.
Priced out of my mind!

Poor mom! I feel for you. But I fear that you, like many others (including myself) have been lax in teaching about money, and now the money tap is slowing down, if not stopping, and our kids don't get it. A couple of suggestions: establish an upper limit for what can be spent on clothes during a month. It sounds to me as if one of these items would exceed the allowance for a single month, and so your daughter would have to learn to exercise patience. But a good sit-down talk about what the family can (and cannot) with a definite number attached should make it clear. Second (very important in my opinion): get your teen to work for her spending money. She would need to find a job that would not interfere excessively with school and meets with your approval. And she would find out (rapidly) that $200 is A LOT of money to pay for a single item of clothing, because it would represent A LOT of her time. This is something that all of us need to learn, I think. My son shocked me not too long ago by saying, ''But mom, this game's really cheap, just $75!'' I know that some parents feel uneasy about teenagers taking time away from homework to work, but this is the one of the most important things to learn - - the value of work and money in our society. My opinion. working mom

When I was your daughter's age, my parents gave me an allowance that was meant to cover clothes, movies, everything. It was not very generous, but it forced me to learn how to budget, how to make good purchases, and also motivated me to earn money. I LOVED clothes and had more expensive tastes than my budget (some things don't change), and I ended up getting a job at a clothing boutique that allowed me to buy great clothes at a discount.

I would recommend going this route -- it takes the onus off of you to evaluate each purchase, and puts it on her to begin to learn how to make choices. Two hundred dollar jeans aren't as appealing when they mean that you can't go to the movies with your friends or buy anything else for two months. Still a Clothes Horse, but I Shop Resale

Here are 2 ideas. 1) I give my 17 year old son a clothing allowance, and that's it. I figured what he might need in the way of jeans, shirts, shoes and came up with a bit over $400/year (I have paid for underwear on top of this, and a major purchase like outerwear, if I think he needs it). He preferred getting it monthly ($35/mo). He felt it wasn't enough so he augmented from his savings, to start (another $15/month), and then from jobs (babysitting, yardwork, etc). This stopped many long arguments about whether he could have the shirt he HAD to have. He has discovered alternatives on Telegraph Ave where he can buy his clothes for much less than at the designer stores. 2) My friend took her 13 year old to Buffalo Exchange and let her pick a whole wardrobe, when she complained of having nothing to wear (probably including designer labels, but at much less than the new costs). Then when her daughter complained the next week she said, ''It's hard, isn't it, when you aren't sure of who you are,'' or something like that (brilliant friend). Her daughter agreed, and the topic of buying more clothes was sidestepped. Best of luck Queen of Mean but not always

I agree that $200 for jeans is outrageous!! I wouldn't pay it! I would start by explaining your financial situation and then give her a clothing stipend that will last her for say 6 months. She will have to buy all the clothes she needs and if she runs out of money, well then...there's the lesson! I wouldn't give her more than you can afford though. Shopping can be an addiction and we don't sometimes realize that we already have what we think we need more of!

One thing that I have done with my daughter (who didn't really care about brand names) was buy a bunch of ''school clothes'' at the begining of the year and then filled in with fun shopping trips to Target for underware, bras, and a few tops. At 17 she worked in the summer and made a bunch of money which she quickly pissed away on clothes, though she knew that this was it, I wasn't going to buy her clothes if she was working (except bras and underware).

This brings me to the types of options that are out there for less expensive shopping. Many kids shop at Bancroft Clothing Company and Target, Ross, Marshall's, and if you go to the 'burbs, Lowe, Lohmans, etc. and look for SALES. I think teaching her to look for sales and getting a bargain is a good thing. I, personally, do most of my clothes shopping at thrift stores, the ultimate bargains (on a State paycheck!) My daughter goes back and forth about how she feels about it. Sometimes I just come home with items for her and wears them! She knows that you can find cool stuff there.

Your daughter might really respond to your possible pay freeze and you can also request that she start to participate by trying to spend less on clothing.

Good luck and keep at it! Sometimes you have to try a few different methods. anon

Since your daughter has both an allowance and earns money babysitting, the easiest solution is for you to contribute to her college fund and have her use her own money for expensive clothes and other luxuries. A basic wardrobe is your responsibilty. Beyond that, she should value the clothes enough to buy them herself. My guess is that she will quickly decide that $200 jeans don't cover much better and $40 jeans.

Once I gave my daughter an allowance and made her responsible for how she spent it I was fascinating to see how her spending preferences changed. I still buy her basic school wardrobe, but everything else is on her. She also has to either buy her own lunch, or pack lunch from food in the refrigerator - most days she finds something ''for free.'' I believe I'm doing her a favor by helping her learn how to evaluate the worth of her purchases. Committed to financial education

Ah, the familiar struggle. The first one is money: it doesn't grow on trees and these types of clothes don't appear to be within your family budget. Another one is a moral issue; you want to help your daughter become a person of depth who sees the big issues in the world and who is not afraid to be judged for herself instead of what she wears.

When I was 14 in the early 60's my parents were very secretive about money. I had no idea how much they had or how much anything cost. I don't think that was helpful in the long run. Maybe if you sat down with your daughter and went over the family budget she would get a better idea of whether or not these clothes are affordable. That she saves money for college is admirable but it doesn't have the ring of immediacy that teens need--and she's only 14. Perhaps you could do a little switch: tell her that the responsibility for college rests with you, not with her. Her allowance and babysitting money are for her out-of- pocket expenses: for my daughter that meant movies, music, gifts for friends. If she wishes to buy clothes that you feel are out of the budget then she should save her own money for that. It might give her a better perspective and make her choose her luxuries more carefully. When she gets to college she may very well want to help out by getting a part time job on campus and that will be appropriate.

She may discover that some of her friends have a similar deal with their parents but don't talk about it. And she may begin to realize just how much money some people have-- and just how little others have. She may start to question the values of some of her friends. And she may make some new and more rewarding friendships. anon

When I was a teen my parents gave me a monthly allowance that was for all my spending money and clothes. This worked very well for us---gives flexibility as she can decide, well I would rather go out to a fancy dinner with my friends this month, so I won't buy any new clothes.

What I have done with my son (now 18) for the last year is give him $20/month for clothes. When I started this he had a complete wardrobe (and he is not growing anymore), so this money was just to replace things as they wore out or as he lost them (which was all the time!). Luckily he is fine with clothes from Target/Old Navy.

My friend pays for the basic cost of an item (when she sees it is needed!) and if her daughter wants a more expensive version, the daughter pays the difference. So she allows $30 for a pair of jeans.

I would definitely encourage you to set some limits. Your daughter will learn valuable lessons about budgeting and making choices. Maybe she'll start going to thrift stores. My daughter (age 13) and her friends recently had a clothes swap where they all brought clothes they didn't wear anymore and traded. Everything found at least one item she liked and the rest they gave to charity. Hold your ground!

Wow, you're much more sympathetic about this than I would be. How about you set a monthly budget for clothes that seems reasonable to you? Where she spends it is up to her. Not only do you avoid the endless negotiations, but you're teaching her a valuable skill that she will need for the rest of her adult life. Consignment shopper

Wow, I hope you are thinking through why you haven't learned to say No to your daughter. What kind of a life lesson is she learning by your allowing her to always get everything she wants? You really think that a child should come every night to ask for another piece of clothing and that the parent should agree??? Don't you think it would be useful for her to understand the reality of the economic conditions of today?

A few months back the Sunday New York Times Styles section had an article on this issue: parents were beginning to tell their teenagers that they could not keep buying clothes and were surprised at how mature some of them could be when the parents were open with their teenagers about the nature of the economy, their own concerns about jobs or declines in the stock market etc. Some parents just had a discussion and told their kids, others had the teenagers work with them to develop a plan for saving money, etc. You might want to see if you can find this article online at the New York Times website.

It definitely sounds like you should sit down with your daughter and explain clearly the economy we are in, possible future risks you face (state IOU's, etc.), how you need to save money for her college rather than spend it on clothes, and other realities of life. You should also reinforce that idea that YOU will be the one saving money for her college; if she wants new clothes that she doesn't need, she can use her babysitting money to pay for them. That way, she will learn to budget and learn that if she buys a $200 pair of jeans, she won't be buying another else for a while.

It really seems like the time is right to switch the priorities for her and get her to use her own money for things she doesn't need. And start to work on the idea that ''clothes do not make the girl,'' and that she might not want to appear insensitive when girls in other families are struggling because their parents are struggling with bills. And to help her begin to understand the real world, and real economic issues.

There's a real opportunity here for deepening her understanding of budget and real-life issues and for the two of you to become more honest with each other. Good luck! Anonymous

I think honesty is best. Try this, ''We can't afford it.'' Or, ''I would never forgive myself if our income was stopped or reduced and we couldn't afford our mortgage/rent and utilities because I spent our money on designer clothing.'' You guys could get creative and try to find some really good second hand stores, but I don't know of any.

I have this issue with my kids over spending in general. I have used the above suggested phrases and they have worked. It has taken a while for it all to sink in, but it eventually does. They are much better about asking for stuff and never complain. You should also point out all the reasons you are proud of her and all the things you *do* have that many other families in the Bay Area would kill for. Just stand your ground and let her know it isn't a punishment, it is just the reality for your family. Hang Tough

You will be doing yourself and your daughter a favour if you just say no. I know that may be easier to write than do, but if you support your daughter's high-priced shopping, you are telling her that it is okay to waste money you don't have on things like clothing rather than necessities. She's old enough that you should be able to explain the situation - simply that you don't have enough money to spend so much on clothes for her and that necessities (like food, mortgage, car, etc.) come first. Make out a list of the clothes you've bought for her in the past year and how much they cost - let her see the numbers. Here's one approach that worked well for my brother and sister-in-law: Give her a clothing allowance for 6 months or the entire year and let her do her own shopping with it (with some supervision regarding appropriateness). Or increase her regular allowance and let her buy her own clothes out of it. I would advise giving her much less than you normally spend and then encourage her to shop for items on sale. For example, I regularly buy $150 jeans and $100 tops and never spend more than $60 on any one item. I guarantee that you will notice a difference in what she thinks she HAS to have. You have to be firm on it in order for it to work though - if she spends it all on two pairs of jeans and comes asking for more, you have to be VERY firm and say flat- out ''no''. Even if it means her having to do laundry more often. Or else make her work (chores, offering to do yardwork for neighbours) if she wants more money. It might be hard, but this is an opportunity for her to learn something. Alternately, you could tell her that if she wants the jeans she needs to give something else up - part of her allowance, rides to the movies for 3 or 4 weeks, etc. Kids can't learn without sometimes being put in an uncomfortable position.

That being said, I have to admit that I find it horrifying that any parent would spend that much on clothes for their teenager and I highly doubt everyone else at school has parents who spend this much on their kids clothes (unless she's going to some ridiculously expensive private school, in which case, she's probably partially right). My parents couldn't afford to shop for me anywhere but the cheapest used clothing stores when I was a kid, and frankly, it taught me to be less materialistic and helped me to make friends with people who were genuine and respectful. Yes, I still had friends, a popular boyfriend, was well-liked, etc. Sure, I hated it then, but it also made me learn how to dress fashionably in well- made clothes without running up thousands in debt. Not that I'm suggesting doing that to her, but it's worth thinking about what message you are sending by giving her these things and what kinds of people she is friends with who are so concerned about how expensive her jeans are. Another unfortunate fact about teenagers: the more that you give them, the more they want and the less they appreciate you. Lisa

You know the phrase location, location, location as it pertains to buying a home. With kids it's expectations, expectations, expectations. Are you setting expectations around her babysitting money and other things?

I highly recommend an allowance. When my daugter started high school, at 14, money for ''nondiscretionary'' spending (including clothing) was added to the discretionary money she was already getting. This served two purposes, money management practice for her and I no longer had to make decisions on what was or wasn't reasonable clothing. The decision then became hers. It's amazing how quickly they learn how to get named brand for less and how having named brand is not as important as they thought.

Yes, making the decision on what the allowance should be was challenging. Start with a list of what is to be included in the allowance amount (bus, lunch money, haircuts, etc.) and have your daughter make a list with requested amounts. Keep in mind, to be the most effective, it is best not to rescue your teen if she runs out of money before she gets allowance again. Think about the small lesson she will learn now vs the big lesson later when she can't pay rent. Also, don't judge her expenditures. For example, you many have included X dollars for socks and underwear but your daughter is opting for wearing socks with holes or going without in order to have more money to go to the movies.

Good luck and remember this too shall end. RJ

You'd be doing your daughter a favor by teaching her how to budget and value money. If she doesn't learn now, she could find herself in financial trouble as an adult. Try putting her on a modest clothing allowance and requiring her to use her own money if she wants to buy more than her allowance affords. Saving for college sounds noble, but she can also work during college and babysitting money won't make that big a dent in college expenses. Kids always use the ''but everyone else does'' argument. Not sure where your kid goes to school, but my daughter goes to Berkeley High and she and all her friends dress very casually and don't wear expensive anything. I bet she'll be more thoughtful about her purchases if she has some skin in the game! - Clothing optional

Hi, Here's what my mom did with me, and I'm doing with my 13-y- o daughter. Rather than endlessly debate how much to spend on clothes, I am giving my daughter a monthly clothing allowance. She has to buy all her own clothes using this allowance, and she gets to decide how it's spent. She can choose to buy $90 jeans, but that means she will have to save her allowance for a couple of months and won't be able to buy anything else for awhile. You can pick what amount makes sense to you; for us it's $60/month, and the money also has to be used for entertainment with her friends, gifts for her friends, etc. It's her total allowance money.

I loved this when my mom did it with me, and I'm loving it now--no more discussions about how much to spend, what to spend it on, etc. It's her problem now. It's good to get out of the loop

I feel for you! I have a clothes-conscious 13 y.o. boy, but I believe you may have it harder with a girl. I think you can tell your daughter what you said in your post so she understands the reality. Also, I have shopped with my son at places where they sell name brands for discounts. So now that he wants to buy some of his own clothes, he understands how he might be able to get more for less money. Right now, of course, it's my money! You might give your daughter a clothing allowance and have her budget the money so she learns some of these important economic lessons. Hope this helps a bit. anon

I have had to have that talk with my almost 16 year old. I told her what my limitations were, and while she didn't like it, she went with it. I have also heard that exposing your actual check book to the child and showing them what's in there can be helpful. anonymous

I think that you need to talk to your daughter about what you wrote here -- she might be disappointed, but she might be reasonable. I also think you might want to make a clothing budget with her, and let her spend the money until it is gone. Then she's in charge of how to spend her clothing money, and will probably realize that the money will go fast if she spends in on $200 jeans. afraid my daughter will start ''needing'' $200 jeans

Yeah, we are dealing with this too, not just with clothes but with expectations that our sixteen-year-old twins will somehow get a car because their cousin and all their friends are getting cars. I think we need to hand off some of the cost to them. At sixteen I had a job AND I pulled in straight As. I think, without guilt, we say ''can't afford that -- if it's important to you, you need to earn the money for it.'' And I'm talking to myself as much as to you! Good luck (to us both.) Mom of 16-year-old twins

My daughter is 16 and attends HS in Moraga. So the community has $$. The line your daughter is feedling you, that all the kids dress this way, is not true. Some kids do; most do not.

My own daughter wants designer jeans and tops. My answer is simple. No, I will not pay for that. There are plenty of clothes in other stores, frequented by teens, in style, with clothes not that price.

I suggest that you re-orient your daughter. Tell her that 1) with the economy, you cannot afford to buy such expensive clothes. Then stick to what you say, despite what your daughter tell you. 2) I would talk to your daughter about your decision to pay for such clothes in the first place, as a mistake. Talk to her about values. It goes against my values for my teen to wear such expensive clothing and for her to be so focused on ''needing'' those things. 3) there is a difference between need and want, talk to daughter about this. Have your daughter use her own money to pay for her clothes. It will teach your daughter the value of money. And, phooey to her saving babysitting money but then hitting mom up for very expensice clothes. How does this save for college? No way. Finally, my daughter is also a great kid, much like yours. She fits in at her high school with what kids are wearing. She buys most of her own stuff. She works in the summer and pays for all but the bare bones. Peggy

When my daughters started high school (now in 11th and 12th grades) and went from private to public and wanted to wear Hollister,American Eagle etc... I gave them a 6month clothing allowance (back then about $500 every 6 months). They could choose a few very nice pieces of clothing or shop for designer clothes at Marshalls. This was the best thing I have ever done! Much less nagging for clothes on their part, and teaching them the value of money at the same time. I did end up not giving them any money this year because grandparents and relatives have started giving them gift cards and I pay for unlimited basics (pj's,socks,underwear...) whenever they need new ones. Good luck. Mom who loves Marshalls

Because you are paying for these expensive clothes, your daughter does not realize their true cost. As a matter of fact, they are free to her since you are buying them! I would tell her that from now on, her entire clothing budget will come out of her babysitting money. When she realizes how many hours she has to work to buy a pair of $200 jeans, she will likely change her priorities. It might also be good for her to volunteer in a homeless shelter or in a situation where she can see how far $200 can go in buying food for the hungry. If she is worried about peer pressure, perhaps she can be a leader in her school and change the consumerist culture there. What if she started a charity at her school, where everyone in the class agreed to forego designer clothes and donate their clothing budgets to people in need? Who knows, it might become fashionable to wear clothes from Target and Goodwill! ;) This will be a valuable life lesson for her.

Clothing budget - this post reminded me of the arguments I had with one daughter whose desire for new clothes was, in my opinion, excessive. We set a fairly flexible standard of need versus want (i.e., 2 bathing suits are need, 6 are want)and I paid for the need; she had to pay for the want. Now that she is a junior in college and her wardrobe comes out of the general monthly budget, she must pay for rent and food before clothes. It is still distressing to me that so much of her discretionary income that she works hard for is spent on clothes, but that's her business. Good luck. Berkeley mom

Two words: clothing allowance. Your daughter is old enough to be given a set sum per month to spend on clothes as she chooses (she can still use her other funds for clothes, and you can give her clothes as birthday or holiday gifts, but she cannot ask you to pay for clothes otherwise). You just have to say 'no'. There is nothing wrong with your daughter - she sounds like a lovely girl and I was a huge clotheshorse at her age too, so I totally understand. And face it, if you could get someone to give you stuff simply by pestering them enough, wouldn't you pester too? She is too young to truly understand that you can't afford to keep paying for stuff (plus, it's stressful and unpleasant to always have to be negotiating with her on this issue). I never understood that my parents had limited resources, either. From my perspective anything they really wanted to buy, they bought, it was just that the things they wanted to buy were totally boring. So I basically just tried to make them want clothes for me as much as I did. It's hard, I know, but setting limits will help your daughter, and it will sure help you. Fran

We were in a similar situation a few years ago, and here's what worked for us. We gave our daughter a significantly increased monthly allowance ($100/month) that we were comfortable was within our budget and told her that she was now responsible for paying for all her clothing, entertainment, gifts for friends and school supplies (we were tired of her insistence that she needed a new backpack at the beginning of each school year). We made it clear that there would be absolutely no advances, so she would have to plan large purchases accordingly. Whenever we went shopping, she had to bring her own cash (we wanted her to actually feel the dollars leave her fingertips). In order to encourage saving, we also gave her the option on each payday to put a portion of her allowance in the bank. Any amount put in the bank earned a 20% matching deposit (which would be forfeited if there were any withdrawals within one month after a match). She was free to spend her money as she saw fit, subject to a modesty clause re clothing. In the beginning, we had to bite our tongues as we watched her make some purchases that we thought were extravagant, but as she realized that we were not going to bail her out if she came up short before the next payday, she eventually became a more careful shopper, took better care of her belongings (because she knew she was responsible for replacement costs) and increased her savings rate (enough to pay half the cost of a trip to Italy last summer). She complained about this system only once when she didn't have enough money to go to a concert and pointed out that her friends simply asked their parents for the money. We explained that she should be proud that we treated her as an adult with the freedom to make her own spending choices, but that being an adult also means that she has to live with the consequences of her choices. She never complained about the system again, her backpack is now three years old and she still looks cute. She's 16, after all. What's not cute? Good luck! CCH

Your daughter is being ridiculous, of course, although I wouldn't recommend ridiculing her (strong though the temptation may be!). It's an irritating phase, but even more irritating for you if she's allowed to get away with it.

Call/e-mail her friends' parents and ask about the ''everyone buys these labels'' tale. Some parents might be silly enough to do so, but probably not very many. See if together you can come up with a strategy for dealing with your greedy girls. (Mine shopped, and still shops, at Crossroads in Berkeley and other hip consignment stores where the prices are reasonable.) Melanie

omg - $200 jeans and $100 tops? and a request for something new every day? are you kidding? It's time to start saying 'NO' to this child. I'm not sure why you haven't said no already. The verbiage is: 'No, we can't afford to spend so money on your clothes'. Give her a clothing allowance you can afford and make her stay within it. 'Afford' is the key word. Ignore the peer pressure, her peers shouldn't be dictating your spending. That said, you also need to be walking the talk and demonstrating appropriate behavior. You shouldn't be out spending big bucks on your stuff while telling her she can't do the same. She needs to learn the value of money and how to stay within a budget now, before she goes away to college. just say NO

I think you said it just fine. I'd only add that she could look at thrift and consignment stores. - lucky mom whose kid cared for about 10 minutes in the 4th grade

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned eBay as a great source for inexpensive brand-name clothing. For years, this is where we purchased every trendy, must-have item, and always at a deep discount. Now, my 18 year old has a part- time job, so she buys most of her own clothing. She looks online, as there are often sales, but also looks on eBay. My 15 year old loves vintage shirts these days, so eBay is still a great resource for him, as well. Our family knows from experience that eBay has the 'cool clothes' for less! Kirsti

I have two teenage daughters, and have been thru the same thing. We live in Corte Madera, and Redwood High School has more than its share of kids in designer clothes, but I have to say, for my girls middle school was more difficult in terms of being judged by their clothing. The girls were simply nastier, but while that certainly does happen in high school, being in a larger environment seems to help. They have more leeway, it seems, to develop their own style without being so restricted by what ''everyone'' thinks. I see girls there that do the label thing, but I also see plenty that don't. I think part of the process is to remind your kids that it may seem that everyone has this stuff, but if they look around, they will notice that plenty do not.

As for shopping, I've taught them to use ebay for some things, but I think we got knock-offs in many cases and jeans didn't fit, so we don't do that so much anymore. Consignment stores often have designer jeans and labels, you just have to find one with the right personality. Gap makes cute things at good prices, and doesn't seem to have the ''cheap'' stigma. The other place my girls love is H They will spend money on their jeans, then find tops, belts, scarves, jackets, bags and shoes at H or Gap and they leave the house looking like magazine models nearly every day.

That said, I give my girls a clothing allowance to cover clothes, but I pay for necessary shoes, underwear, and occasional things like winter coats. Anything over and above that they have to fill in with babysitting money, etc. They both have a fair amount of income so this hasn't been too much of a problem. At this point I give them $15 every Monday, or roughly $60 a month. I figure that gives them enough to have one new ''small'' thing each month, or a nicer thing after two months. Mostly I want them to learn to live with what they have, to think of clothing as a long term thing, not a one- wear-then-everyone's-seen-it-thing, and I want them to appreciate the cost of these expensive items (not sure if I'm succeeding on that last one, but I try...). For the most part this works, and I'm finding that as they get older, having that certain item is becoming less and less important. Anne

As a parent, I buy my teenager the necessaries. I talk to her about the culture of waste, display, and spending that we have, a culture that drives a wedge between rich and poor and that drives the middle class who try to keep up into debt. We talk about caring about others around us who are less fortunate. We don't live above our means. Our family lives just below the poverty line. We actually manage to donate money to charities that serve our community. How do we do it? We buy clothes, including very nice clothes, at local thrift stores. There are several very good thrift stores on University Avenue in Berkeley, including one where you can sell clothing items for 50 cents and buy clothing items for $3.00. kitty

What is a reasonable clothing budget for 17 year old daughter?

June 2004

We have just decided to give my 17 year old daughter a clothing allowance as a way to avoid conflicts about what she's buying and how much she spends. Any ideas about what amount is reasonable and what the allowance should cover would be greatly appreciated.

I've given full allowances for both my teens and it's worked wonderfully, though differently, both times. But I didn't limit it to clothing -- I just gave $150/month to pay for optional expenses: clothes, movies, lunches out, etc. I only paid for school expenses.

My son spent EVERY PENNY for months on comic books. It drove me crazy, but it did eliminate his asking for money for clothes. He took his in cash. Four years later he's no longer a clothes-horse and is actually spending and earning money responsibly.

My daughter still tries to get me to pay for gas, dinners out, etc. but it's pretty easy for me to decide what's her decision and what's required. So she has to babysit when she needs more money. She has a savings and a checking account set up and an atm card and I pay by check.

We also gave her a year's worth of money for her cell phone, so she's learning to budget there too. The month that she discovered that text messaging was not free when roaming was quite a shock. But the money was in her checking account so she could pay the bill, then she immediately took a job walking dogs at 7 a.m. for 3 weeks. (That's tough for a teen to get up an hour early!) Barbara

I think the policy of giving a teen a ''clothing allowance'' is fabulous. I did this with my daughter starting when she was 12, and with my son when he turned 14. They are now 34 and 27, respectively. It relieved countless headaches, taught them the value of a dollar, enabled them to make mistakes when the stakes still weren't very high, allowed them to get exactly what they wanted to wear, and taught them how to shop wisely. I think there is no answer to ''how much,'' because it depends on the size of your wallet, the style level to which you clothe your daughter, etc. Best way is to go back a year or two and look at your own expenditures on clothes for her. If you include everything--coats, sweaters, pants, dresses,prom dresses, underwear and shoes--in the ''budget,'' you probably cannot give her less than $1000 in a year. That's $83.33 per month. (I gave my daughter $50 per month in 1982) Adjust upwards from there, based on what you think you already spend on her clothing per month. I also recommend giving a ''chunk'' of money at one time--either 1/4 or 1/2, if you decide not to give it all to her at once. This enables the purchase of more expensive items. I also think it is vital for you not to ''supplement'' the amount to which you agree if your daughter goes over and then doesn't have anything but raggy underwear to use for half a year! Allow her to earn the money for more underwear, but don't supply it yourself. This helps in keeping to a budget. It's a wonderful skill for future life. I was at first worried that my expansive daughter who liked fine things would blow all her money at once on horrible-looking clothing (btw, if you have any types of clothing that are ''forbidden,'' be sure to make that rule clear before the money is given-- maybe even get a signature on the rules to which you agree). She went shopping on her own the first time and was gone all day. I dreaded her return. When she came home, she was empty-handed. ''Wow, Mom. Clothes are expensive!'' she lamented. ''I didn't want to spend up all my money and then regret it. I'm going to think about what I saw and go back another time to get what I want.'' She started her own business three years ago and grosses close to half a million dollars per year--I think she learned a lot of confidence and familiarity with how money works and what she wants it to do for her. My best to all of you! Ilene

A friend of mine pays what she considers a reasonable amount for the clothes that she thinks are needed and then her daughter has to pay for any extra out of her allowance or by working. So if the mom agrees she needs a pair of jeans the mom will give her $20 for jeans and the daughter has to pay for the difference if she wants more expensive jeans. Or, you could estimate what you spend on her clothes in a year and divide by 12 and do it that way--my parents did that for me and I loved it deborah

Clothing allowance for 13-year-old girl

August 2000

I have a 13 year old daughter going into 9th grade. I'm thinking about giving her a fixed dollar amount to spend on her school clothes so she can budget her money wisely and see what it's like at the parents' end. With the cost of clothes and shoes these days, I was thinking between $200-$300, but is this a fair amount or too high? Any suggestions would be helpful.

Last year we decided to give our 9th grade son $200 per month for lunch money, social money, and clothes after he constantly asked for money the first few months of the school year and also wanted tennis shoes that were over $100. Miraculously, he decided to take a bag lunch to school more often and began to shop for bargains on shoes and clothes. As it turned out, he never spent the entire $200 each month, so he had some extra cash for the summer which he has enjoyed.

I took my 9th grader shopping yesterday. We looked for inexpensive stuff. We spent $125 and all we got was a pair of low-end sneakers ($50), a new backpack ($40), a sweatshirt ($25), and 2 pairs of underwear ($10). We didn't get around to pants and shirts. So I would say $200 isn't going to go very far.

One thing I have been doing with my kids is shopping online at and This has worked out really well. We can do it together at our leisure and we don't have to go out in the crowds. They know generally what they want and are familiar with the merchandise at those two stores. There are usually sale items, and Old Navy is really inexpensive for basic shorts, socks, jeans. Don't forget it's delivered to your door too! in just a couple of days! I also find it's easier to stick to a total this way - you can check your shopping basket for the total as you go along and the kids don't seem to mind putting things back when we go over the limit, or trying alternate less expensive choices. The occasional thing we've had to return, we just take back to the store. It's a lot more fun to shop this way too. I highly recommend it. Might work for the bra too - and

When my daughter was in 7th grade we started giving a fall clothes allowance. It has worked wonderfully. She can shop herself saving me time and giving her independence. She also learns to budget what she has and evaluate how badly she needs something or not. I believe I have given $250 the past two years ( 7th & 8th grade) this year she is entering high school and she has gotten me to agree to $350. The way I have done it though is to ask her what she thinks she needs as far as clothes to start school ( shoes, two new pants, a sweatshirt, three t-shirts etc.) Then I mentally add up reasonable prices for what we agree she needs and pick a round number. It gives her a guideline of what she should buy, but I let her make the actual decisions after that. I do find that I will have to buy her a few things throughout the year ( underwear, socks etc ) but it is a great starting place and a good experience for her.