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Teens Just Wanna Have Funds

Ready to figure out how to save some cash—and start managing your own money like a boss? We thought so. $$$ ahead!

There’s a reason so many rap songs talk about making those Gs: Accumulating wealth makes it easy to buy whatever you need—with money left over for the fun stuff, too. And you’re at exactly the right age to start mastering the basics of personal finance. After all, many banks are eager to open accounts for kids 13 and up. And whether you’re babysitting, selling clothes at the mall, or serving coffee, you’ve likely stepped up your earnings from the coins you brought in when all you had was a lemonade stand. Plus a sweet perk of a bank account is a debit card, which you can use to make purchases with money from your account.

It’s smart to trade in your piggy bank for some plastic, and not just because it feels super adult. “I opened up a checking account with my parents. I learned how to budget and spend my money wisely, as well as keep track of my account,” says David Marshall, 16, of Ruidoso, New Mexico. “It’s taught me how to be more responsible with money.” To get started, we’ve pulled together genius ways to see your net worth grow—and to stretch every dollar as far as you can.

1. HAVE A SPECIFIC GOAL

Knowing exactly what you’re saving for makes stashing your cash easier. "Saving money is tough because you’re going against your instincts of immediate gratification— that you should just go for it then and there," says personal finance expert and Today Show  financial editor Jean Chatzky. "That’s why we have to incorporate strategies that help us make the right decisions." For example, if you need $300 to buy a new video game system, watching your savings grow toward that total will help you overcome the urge to instead blow your cash on, say, pizza after school.

2. GET THE MOST BANK FOR YOUR BUCK

When you’re opening a checking account, shop around for one that will help you make the most of your money. "The goal is to find an account with the fewest fees and the most interest," says Susan Beacham, coauthor of O.M.G. Official Money Guide for Teenagers. (Interest is money you earn by keeping your cash stashed with a bank.) Her advice: Check local banks first. "Community banks tend to give teenagers better interest rates because they want to cultivate junior savers as a gesture of goodwill,"  she says. (Click here for some top checking and debit card options.)

3. KEEP YOUR DOLLARS DIGITAL

Ever heard the phrase "money burning a hole in your pocket"? The idea is if you have cash—say, $20 from babysitting or mowing the neighbor’s lawn—you'll be itching to spend it instead of saving it. Get those bills out of your hands and into the bank with money-transfer apps. "Ask to get paid with Venmo," Chatzky says. Then you can shuttle the money straight into the bank from your phone.

4. START A “FIVE-BUCK FUN CLUB”

Here’s the idea: Everyone chips in $5 and comes with an idea about how to have the most fun with your collective cash. "While $5 won’t get you very far in today’s world, $25 may get you a ride share to an activity that you all want to check out, like a free concert," Beacham says. Plus, learning how to maximize your money presents the fun opportunity to scour your community for free stuff. "If you think of it like a treasure hunt, you’re more likely to enjoy the experience and get the most out of it," she adds

5. MAKE SAVING A FAMILY AFFAIR

Here’s a trick that’ll make you want to put more cash in the bank: Ask your parents and grandparents if they'll consider matching what you save, Beacham suggests. Maybe they give you 25 or 50 cents for every dollar you stash, up to a set amount. Have them send the money to you with Venmo or FamZoo, a "virtual family bank" that lets family members easily send funds to one another.

3 teens on what they’ve learned from paying with plastic

“I like having the freedom to buy things online without having to pay my mom cash then borrow her credit card. Also, if I forget lunch money I have a backup.” 

“With a debit card, it’s so easy to keep track of my money through the online app. It’s also really instructive to know that my card has a limit I can’t exceed."

“I love having a debit card. My mom can transfer money instantly to me. And I like that I don’t walk around with cash—when friends ask for a dollar, I can honestly say I don’t have one!”

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