As of June 2010, financial experts are telling us that the recession that has plagued the United States since the end of 2008 is slowly, slowly loosening its grip.
It’s true that jobs are not being lost at the high rates they were during the worst of the recession. And spending is inching back up.
Teens, who had cut back on their spending through the recession, are starting to buy more, too. But they still face a tough reality: the teen unemployment rate is nearly three times higher than that of the general population, hovering at above 25 percent.
As Time Magazine reported in January 2010, “this recession has become a jobs disaster for 16-to-19-year-olds.” Andrew Sum, who heads Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, told Time that, “Proportionally, more kids have lost jobs in the past few years than the entire country lost in the Great Depression."
So—if you don’t have a part-time job, you’re mindful of looming college expenses, and you don’t want to rely on the “Bank of Mom and Dad”—what can you do to satiate your desire for goodies and still remain financially thrifty?
Here are some tips:
• Watch your parents. Yeah, in general, you probably don’t want to do this. But watching how your parents spend—or don’t spend—might be educational. Your parents actually know a thing or two about how to save money and spend wisely.
• Think before you buy. Do you really need that shirt/handbag/can of soda/lipstick/CD? How long will it last? How long will you use it for? If you think you’ll use something just once, or you might not want it next week, reconsider it. (As for the can of soda—how about drinking water instead?)
Even though the recession has made teens cautious about spending, they are still prized by retailers because they tend to have disposable income for things like entertainment, food, and clothing. In fact, by some estimates, teens spend about $200 billion a year!
• Window shop. You can spot the things you love, wait for them to go on sale, and in the meantime, not spend a dime. Plus, hanging out at the mall with friends is fun it itself, even if you don’t buy anything.
• Collect coupons. A bargain shopper is a smart shopper. You’ll find coupons in the newspaper, online, and sometimes in the mail for everything from books to groceries to clothes. Check out stores’ web sites to find out about upcoming sales.
• In with the old. Fashion tends to go in cycles, with styles repeating themselves over time; that means you can find cool clothes at vintage clothing stores and save some cash. And if you don’t want to buy secondhand, ask your parents if you can look through their old clothes. You never know what gems you might find!
• Compare prices. Don’t buy the first thing you see. Look around. Compare service quality, too. Sometimes getting bad service leaves a bad taste in your mouth, especially if you pay full price for something.
Shopping certainly isn’t a bad thing. It pumps money into the economy, after all, and the better the economy, the more jobs there will be—and that includes teen jobs. But if you don’t have much money to spend, you have to be smart about shelling it out. If you learn how to spend wisely now, it will help you handle your finances for the rest of your life.