Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Use My Money Wisely?
“YOUNG people in this country today are being raised to spend.” So concluded pollster Lester Rand after doing a study of teenage spending in the United States. According to Rand, U.S. youths spent to the tune of $39.1 billion in just one year! And where is the money going?
U.S. researchers Norman and Harris report: “Some form of entertainment, particularly music, is high on almost every list. . . . Teenagers who drive spend the largest percentage of their money on gasoline, repairs, and general maintenance. A great many others spend their cash on a variety of junk foods, with pizza, soft drinks, and hamburgers heading the list. Girls seem to spend more on clothing than boys do; and of course, teenage girls are invaluable to the cosmetics industry.”
Granted, car expenses, food, entertainment—these can be perfectly legitimate expenses. But is all teenage spending done wisely?* And could it be that a working youth’s financial obligations go beyond buying things for himself?
How to Spend Prudently
Let’s consider shopping, for example. Most young people enjoy it, especially if they have money in their pockets to spend. But is it really the best policy to buy everything that you want and see?
In a survey of 600 people taken in England, it was observed that 62 percent of those questioned between the ages of 15 and 19 were at least occasional impulsive shoppers. (Adolescence, Fall 1982) A smart buyer, though, thinks ahead as to what he or she needs. Why not, then, make a list of what to buy before you go shopping and limit your purchases to that list? In their book Options, authors Shaw and Berry further recommend: “When you go shopping, bring just enough money to buy what you really need, or what you’d planned to buy before you left for the store.”
The journal Adolescence also observed that while older consumers are concerned with quality and practicality when purchasing clothing, youths are more concerned with fashion. Is that true of you? If so, make some changes in your shopping habits. Before spending your hard-earned money, think about how long a garment will last you. Will it be a few years? Or will it go out of style in a few months?
Be concerned, too, about quality. An inexpensive item of poor quality may cost you more in the long run because of repairs or replacement. So shop around. If it’s clothing, examine the fiber content. How often will the garment need cleaning? Can it be washed? These are factors that should be taken into consideration before making a purchase.
A youth named Lyshondra has learned a valuable shopping skill from her parents. Says she: “I usually shop with my mother, and she has taught me to look for sales so that I can stretch my money.” Another tactic is to delay buying until the end of a season when bargains abound. Phyllis, a young woman who is already an experienced bargain hunter, adds: “I can’t remember buying anything at the regular price. I look for bargains, and I like thrift shops. People think that my clothes are new!”
Helping With Household Expenses
Do you have an after-school or part-time job? If so, are you spending all your money on yourself, reasoning that it is your parents’ job to provide for you? Really, though, when was the last time your parents spent money only on themselves? Are not most of their resources shared with the family? Would it not be reasonable, then, for you to lend a hand with household expenses?
“I do,” answered young Stephanie when asked that question. She and three other family members are Jehovah’s Witnesses and serve as full-time evangelizers. “It’s necessary,” says Stephanie, “and it also serves as training, for there is no place where a person can live without helping with the expenses.” Adds a youth named Albert: “It’s only part of my responsibility. If I was not living at home, I would have to do it anyway. So I feel I should give freely.”
True, your parents may not expect anything from you. But a youth named Tommy made a good point when he said: “I feel it’s only fair. They brought me into the world and have taken care of me up to this point, so I should do something to pay them back.”
The Blessings of Generosity
“A generous man grows fat and prosperous, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” So says the Bible at Proverbs 11:25. (The New English Bible) When you get paid, it may be tempting to think of all the things you can buy for yourself. Jesus, however, reminds us: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Granted, there is a need for balance in this regard. Generosity does not mean spending oneself into poverty. “I spend a lot of money on presents and my cash just flies out of the door,” lamented one youth. “That’s where I think eighty-five percent of my money goes.” Never forget, though, that God takes note of well-motivated acts of kindness. Indeed, says Proverbs 19:17: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.”
Proverbs 3:9, 10 points out another area in which you can show generosity: “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things and with the firstfruits of all your produce. Then your stores of supply will be filled with plenty; and with new wine your own press vats will overflow.” In Bible times, worshipers of Jehovah in Israel were obliged to contribute voluntarily the firstfruits of their farming labors. This served to maintain the Levitical priests who served at the temple in Jerusalem. Though Jehovah’s Witnesses today do not worship at a material temple, they realize that it likewise requires funds to maintain their places of worship (called Kingdom Halls). Says an 18-year-old named Albert: “I made it a goal to contribute something each time I go to the hall.”
The Snare of Envy
Admittedly, not all youths have the financial resources to shop and spend as outlined here. And when you don’t have what others seem to have, it is easy to feel envious. Young Darnell, for example, admits: “I do have the tendency to look at what other people have, and I say: ‘Wow! That’s nice.’” But rather than dwell on the matter, he tries to counteract those feelings.
No, simply wanting nice things is no sin. But do you allow yourself to become unhappy when you cannot afford something that you want? Do you even develop some ill will toward those who happen to have more than you do? If so, remember the counsel Jesus Christ gave at Luke 12:15: “Guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”
Really, there will always be those who have more than you do. And trying to keep up with the Joneses leads only to heartache and many pains. The apostle Paul reminds us: “For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”—1 Timothy 6:7, 8.
Money can be a useful servant if it is viewed properly. Learn to save. Learn to spend it shrewdly, carefully. Money definitely contributes to life and can make it more comfortable. But as a youth named Matthew puts it: “Money has its place, but it is not everything. It’s not the main thing. We do need money to live, but it should never be put ahead of our family or Jehovah.”
The December 22, 1988, issue of Awake! discussed the advisability of budgeting and saving money.
[Blurb on page 13]
U.S. youths spent to the tune of $39.1 billion in just one year!
[Picture on page 15]
If you have a job, do you voluntarily share household expenses?