Congratulations, You Won $1,000


We asked our teen advisers to answer this question, not because we’re actually handing out gigantic chunks of cash (sorry!)—but because thinking about what you really want can help you set a goal, spend smart, and save big. It’s a little easier to skip that after-school Starbucks when you’re holding out for a car, right? On the next two pages, we asked Kristin Wong, author of Get Money, and Choices vlogger and money expert Bernadette Anat to help three teens turn their big money dreams into realistic goals, no lucky winnings required. Read on to feel inspired to make your own action plan. 

Seth is ready for the independence a car would give him. “I could drive around and do my own thing—go to the beach, to a concert,” he says. Seth makes $8.50 an hour at his job at Subway, and because of a light school schedule, he works as many as 20 hours per week. After taxes he takes home roughly $520 a month. 

GO FOR IT. A reliable used car can cost as little as $1,500. If Seth can put aside $350 a month, he’ll be ready to buy a car before he starts college next fall. The key here is budgeting. He’ll have to keep that money out of reach, safe from daily temptations. 

  • Calculate Your Costs: It isn’t just a car he will pay for, he needs money for monthly insurance, registration, maintenance, and gas.
  • Check Your Spending: Seth says he sometimes blows up to $200 on food like burgers and chips in a month. To get his car, he’ll have to sacrifice going out to eat and buying snacks.
  • Make Saving Easy: Seth should see if his bank will let him nickname the account something fun and encouraging, like “Seth’s Hot Wheel Fund.” He can also have a percentage of his paycheck automatically deposited to it (yes, that’s a thing!) so that he never feels tempted to skip saving. 

For two weeks every summer, Mary attends a horse riding camp at If Only Farm, home to nearly 100 horses. It’s the highlight of her year. “If I had my own horse,” says Mary, who is in sixth grade, “then I could go to the barn anytime and ride for free. Also,” she adds, “I’d get to name it.” 

WHOA! The true cost of horse ownership includes way more than you might think—the
horse itself, boarding ($550 per month at If Only Farm), care and feeding, medical costs, and more. No wonder so few people own horses! Mary needs to ask herself: Is there a less expensive way to get the feeling she wants, without buying the thing she wants? 

  • Revise your goal: Mary found out that riding lessons cost $40 an hour at her stable, so we helped her set a more realistic goal: saving $20 of her allowance per month in a riding lesson fund.
  • Share your goal: You might get some help! When Mary shared her goal with her parents, they were willing to match her monthly savings, which will allow her to take one riding lesson per month.
  • Get creative: To get more time with the horses at the barn, Mary will volunteer to clean stalls and groom the animals. She says, “I’m going to give the horse I ride a nickname that only I use.” 

When he’s not practicing his euphonium, playing in a school concert, or doing homework, one of Zeke’s favorite pastimes is to hang out with his friends in cafés. “My family doesn’t do allowances,” Zeke says, and he doesn’t have a job, but sometimes he earns money weeding his grandmother’s garden. He’d love more pocket money for coffees and movies. 

GET SOME FUNDS. Earning your own funds doesn’t just give you cash to go out with friends—it can also make you feel good. You’ll be happy and proud about the money you worked for, and maybe extra responsible too. 

  • Bank on your talents: Have a skill? Turn that into cash. Zeke is an excellent musician and very outgoing. He could use those skills to get gigs playing music at parties and weddings. Or, he could build on what’s already earning him money—gardening—by asking his grandma to recommend his services to her friends, or by posting notices at local stores or places of worship, for instance.
  • Create a specific number goal: Do a quick calculation on how much two cappuccinos and one movie cost. $17? Now that’s a solid number to aim for with your new side-hustle. 
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