Money Smarts

By STRONG. Magazine for Girls

Financial know-how for Smart Girls!

Ah the first of the month – allowance day!  At least it is for the kids in my house. Now here’s the tricky part – you’ve probably been waiting for that cash for a while.  Should you race down to the store right now and blow it all on candy?  Or should you put it all straight into a bank account?  Learning to manage your money –no matter how much or how little you have, is a crucial life skill.  Here are some tips:

Where Does Your Money Come From?

Consider where your money comes from and when you’ll get more.  Maybe your Great Aunt Agatha came to visit last month and gave you $50 (lucky you!), but if you don’t normally get an allowance and Aunt Agatha doesn’t visit very often, it could be quite some time before you see money like this again!

If your parents give you an allowance, how much is it, how often do you get it and, crucially, what is it expected to cover?  Are you supposed to pay for your own clothing, books etc.?  If you have a phone bill is it paid already or is this something you’re expected to cover out of your allowance?  

What Are Your Expenses?

So OK, you could go down to the fro-yo store right now, grab the hugest container they have and pile it high with yogurt and gummy worms, and get one for your friend too while you’re at it.  But this might not leave you with very much money for the rest of the month.  Far better to plan out what you’re going to need to spend your money on. Be honest with yourself – do you tend to go to the movies once a month with friends?  Do you go into town once a week after school and buy a frappucino?  Make sure you know what you’re going to want to spend and set that money to one side.

Are You Saving?

It is always a good idea to have savings so that one day when something unexpected comes along that you haven’t planned for – such as an unexpected invitation to go bowling or a brand new video game that you just HAVE TO HAVE, you have the cash to cover the expense.  But beyond these short-term savings, there are bigger things that can be saved for.  Consider this – it’s not going to be all that long until you can learn to drive.  Saving up for a car may be beyond your reach but even when you borrow your parents’ car, gas costs money!

Pay Yourself First!

After you’ve worked out what your expenses are, decide what you want to save and pay yourself.  Don’t wait and pay yourself at the end of the month.  It’s all too easy to give into temptation and buy that candy bar by the checkout in Stop and Shop.  Then you get to end of the month and there’s nothing left to save. If you’ve decided that you’re going to save, don’t let yourself be tempted to touch that money!

Keeping Track

Probably one of the most important things you can do to help you manage your money is to keep track of it.  There are plenty of apps out there to help you, such as iAllowance and Smarty Pig, or you can do it the old fashioned way with a notebook and pen.  You’ll need a column for the date, one for a brief description, one for income, one for expenditure and one for you to have your running total.  Knowing how much money you have makes you much more likely to be careful with it and avoid doing things like leaving it in jacket pockets or running it through the laundry. Apart from anything else, tracking your money this way means you don’t have to keep getting it out and counting it!

Open a Bank Account

All you need to open a bank account is a social security number and your parents’ signature.  If you are finding you’re saving a substantial amount of money, why not open a bank account?  One advantage is that your sav-

ings are slightly harder to get at – if you have to actually go to the bank and withdraw money it will give you longer to consider if this is money you really want to spend.  Also, money in the bank is safe.  I’ll never forget hearing about one of my nieces who left her wallet on a bus with 100 English Pounds in it.  There’s just no getting that money back.  Plus, there’s this wonderful thing called compound interest   - put your money in the bank and it’ll actually grow!  Only a small amount at first, but the more you save, the more it will grow.

Shop Smart

Make your money go as far as you can.  There are bargains all around.  Really want to watch that new movie but trying to save up for a new bike?  Maybe you wait until the movie comes out on demand and invite your friends over for a movie night instead?  Maybe your local movie theater has Super Tuesdays when the seats are cheaper? Got your eye on a sweater in The Gap?  Give it a few weeks and it’ll almost certainly be on sale.  Look out for coupons – they’re everywhere.  Maybe ask your parents for the ones they don’t use such as their CVS coupons.   Check out thrift stores for clothes – you can often find amazing items at rock bottom prices – especially if you’re looking for a costume or for something that you’re only going to wear once. It’s recycling and good for the planet PLUS you can sing that Macklemore song as you shop “I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket.”

Don’t pay extra for brand name products.  OK, in some cases it’s absolutely worth it.  I will not touch any ketchup that isn’t made by a certain company.  But sometimes the non-branded products are just as good as the brands, so be smart about how you spend your money. Drink tap water with your school lunch instead of expensive, sugar filled sodas and juices.  It’s better for you and free from a water fountain. Again, you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment and saving on all that nasty plastic packaging.

Getting Your Hands On Some Money!

Maybe you don’t get an allowance, or you do get one but you’d like to supplement it with a little extra income.  You have to be 14 in Connecticut for example, to work outside of school hours and 16 to work during them.  But even if you’re younger, if you’re smart, there are loads of ways you can earn some extra cash.

Pet Sitting/Dog Walking

I don’t know what it’s like at your house but ours is like a zoo.  We have a dog, two cats, two guinea pigs, a parakeet and three fish.  When we go away for the weekend we want someone to come in to look after them all.  If you’re an animal lover and you’re responsible, this is a great way to earn some extra cash.  You could also offer to walk dogs for your neighbors when they’re busy at work.


The Red Cross ( babysitting course for kids over the age of 11.  They will teach you how to look after a younger child as well as cover CPR and what to do in emergencies.  Get yourself trained and offer your services as a parent helper if you’re young and as a baby sitter if you’re a little older.  Many families with young kids would love a little extra help around bed and bath time.

Lawn Mowing/Garden Maintenance

Can you push or ride a lawnmower?  It’s not that hard! You can also blow leaves and pick sticks off lawns, mulch flowerbeds and plant borders and patio pots.  If you love being outside and getting your hands dirty, offer this service to your neighbors.

Party Helper

If you have young families nearby, offer to help them out at birthday parties.  It’s often really hard work to entertain 25 excited four year-olds, many parents would love an extra pair of hands.

Car Washing

Oh what I wouldn’t pay to have someone empty my car of all its clutter and garbage every few weeks and give the interior a good clean!  Throw some soapy water on the outside and polish it up as well and you’re onto a sure fire money earner.   You’ll have to shell out for some cleaning products ahead of time but you’ll soon make that money back, and more!

Collecting Seltzer and Soda Cans and Returning them to the Store

This will net you five cents per can.  It may not sound like a lot but it will soon mount up. You could do this at home and/or offer the service to your neighbors as well.  And yet again, you get that wonderful added bonus of helping the planet by encouraging recycling!

Creating Something People Want to Buy

Lemonade on a hot day, hand-made greetings cards, decorated planters, cakes and cookies to sell at a game, tie dye T-shirts.  Create a product and sell it!

Using Your Skills

Are you a musician? Offer lessons to kids.  Or set up a string quartet and offer your services for weddings and christenings.  Set up a band and play at parties.

If you’re great at video editing, offer to edit sports videos for local clubs, or make videos marking special birthdays for people.  Maybe you love tinkering with computers or can fix iphone screens? These are all services that people want and need. Advertise your skills and get them out there!

Just remember to keep track of your earnings and be smart about your money!

About the Author

This piece was originally published in STRONG, a new magazine aimed at tween and teenaged girls that seeks to break the mold. While many other publications for this age group focus on celebrities, STRONG focuses on real girls with diverse interests. While other publications focus on body image and fashion, STRONG focuses on keeping a healthy body and mind. STRONG also presents great role models - girls who have overcome adversity and thrived, and women who are breaking glass ceilings in areas previously dominated by men. Visit to learn more.

Photo credit goes to Ema Whittaker of Ema Whittaker Photography