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My family has never had much money, so I'm quite concerned about my sister's shopping habits. I assumed it was quite average behavior for a young girl to plead for money for the school book fair, the ice cream shop, makeup, etc., but she recently was given a dog-walking job by our neighbor and has starting spending every cent she makes.

Almost as soon as she's paid she'll bike over to the mall and start buying little trinkets and things. Sometimes she'll lie about how much money she has and beg our mother for some amount of money to buy something she desperately needs. She does the same once she's spent all her money and there are often long circular arguments that end with our mom getting too stressed out to continue and just caving in.

I've tried talking to her as her older brother and explaining why she needs to save money, how she'll want things later that she'll need to save her money for now, and how it's unwise to be wasteful of any resource, especially one that for us is scarce. This didn't work.

I tried explaining to my mother that arguing for hours about the same thing and then just giving her money is counterproductive and that she needs to make a decision and then consistently follow through with it. This didn't work either.

How normal is it for a preteen girl to spend money like this and to beg for that money when she doesn't have it? What can I do to stop it?

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3 Answers 3

First, you should recognize that since you are older, you have learned lessons that your sister has not. She is on her own learning path. However, you should also realize that many lessons are learned through personal experience rather than taking someone else's advice.

If your sister has earned this money, it is hers to spend as she wishes. (It is rare nowadays for a minor to be expected to contribute financially to a family.) If she has not previously been given much money, this may be an exciting new feeling for her.

Most importantly, it is this very experience which will give her her own lessons. After a few months (or years) she may realize that she has earned money but has nothing significant to show for it. She may realize that you have more money saved and that it is due to your saving habits. Or perhaps she will learn the opposite lesson, that these small things (which have no value to you) are an inexpensive way to make herself happier. As long as she is not using debt to buy them, that is fine too.

In the end, it is better that if she is going to make mistakes and learn from them, that she do it with a few hundred dollars while she is a teen than with thousands of dollars of debt when she is older.

I do agree, however, that the amount of money she gets from the family should be a fixed amount that she has to manage. Having the possibility of always getting more money by just begging a little harder will not prepare her for the world outside your family.

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I agree that it's typical of many young girls. The approach in our house is that the kids must put 20% of the money they receive in a bank account, and they're allowed to use the rest however they want.

One option would be to suggest to your mother that she gives your sister an allowance each week (which could be increased with chores), and to request that she puts a certain amount in a bank account. She can spend the rest, but once the money is gone, then that's it for the week. And your mother has to be strict on this. This way your sister will learn the value of money, and may be more careful how she spends it.

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+1 for suggesting all the money goes into a bank account. This avoids the problem of the daughter lying about how much money she has. –  Nicholas Feb 25 '13 at 16:46

This, unfortunately, appears to be completely normal. Every generation seems to do just the same.

I think it is incredibly valuable to teach kids the value of saving money and not squandering it on worthless purchases, but it is very difficult.

One technique we use to encourage saving is to agree to top up a percentage of the amount saved when our kids manage to save for something big. At that age they can appreciate that the more they save the more they get from us.

Another is to only give them a small amount of pocket money-if they want more they have to do chores and jobs round the house. They get nothing just for asking.

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