Teens in Sugar Land, a south suburb of Houston, talked about allowances recently. Teen reporter Zariah and her friends discussed how much money they need to get through a week. The discussion was prompted by a section in my YA novel, The People In The Park. The following conversation takes place between 16-year-old Lauren (Kitten) and her father when he informs the family that they will have to cut back on their spending:
“We’re going to have to downsize for the moment,” he said. “I’ll need whatever money I can scrape together to hire lawyers. Kitten, you still have your personal savings account. Use it wisely, because I don’t know how long it’s going to be before I can clear my name. Try not to use over one hundred dollars a week.”
One hundred dollars a week? That was nothing. I couldn’t get by on one hundred dollars a week.
“And don’t use your credit cards. Give them to me.” He held out his hand. “I’ll return them when it’s okay to use them again.”
Stunned, I opened my wallet and handed him my credit cards. “My gas card, too?”
He nodded. “You’re going to have to pay for gas out of the hundred dollars.”
“After paying for gas and lunch I’ll barely have any money left.”
“This is only temporary. We all have to make sacrifices.”
Teens in Sugar Land had a strong reaction to this conversation. Most teens thought that spending less than $100 a week wouldn’t cause undue hardship.
Zariah says, “WOW!! It’s very fortunate to have that much money. Spending less than $100 a week is easy.” She goes on to say that she does not have a weekly allowance and has never had to cut back on the money she spends. If she really wants something most of the time she can get it by doing extra things at home. She ends by saying, “It would be challenging to cut back because I wouldn’t be able to get the things I want. But cutting back for Lauren is good. She will learn how to spend money wisely.”
However, Miranda has an allowance of $50 a week. She says, “If I got $100 a week I would save $50 or spend it on shoes or treat myself to something. It depends on what’s going on that week.” She has never had to cut back on spending.
Another friend states, “I can identify with Lauren. Spending less than $100 a week isn’t enough for me to get what I want. I wouldn’t be able to do that!”
Zariah and friends cannot imagine not having the means to purchase what they want whether they have an allowance or not. They can sympathize with Lauren regardless of the amount of money they receive weekly because they have never had to cut back and cannot imagine how their world would change.