Young Money: The struggle is real – when to save and when to splurge

One of a series of blogs from real people sharing real experiences, observations and advice about being good with money. 

Samantha Mottram is a 17 year old high school student from Auckland’s North Shore. She wrote this post as part of a task for the Massey University Business Boot Camp – BNZ was a Gold sponsor of the Boot Camp and hosted students at BNZ sites across Auckland to meet staff and gain insights into how the bank operates.

Checking my emails is part of my daily routine. I wish I could say it’s to check my work roster or email my teacher completed homework, but I’m guilty of falling into the trap of clicking on emails from online shops, most which I don’t even remember signing up to. Once I’ve been linked to their website, I spend hours scrolling through pages, adding items to my cart, watching the total price increase. Not once do I question whether I actually need that expensive necklace or a pair of over-priced shoes. Instead I click BUY and the money is sucked from my bank account, never to be seen again.

The following week I find out I need to go to an important event for school which is at an expense. Yet to my realisation, I have no money for a ticket to the event or even for transportation to get there because I’ve spent it on items I don’t really need. Only now does the question of ‘should I really have brought those unnecessary items online?’ occur to me.

A lot of teens are challenged with money when it comes to making the choice about spending on necessities as opposed to just satisfying their wants.  So when is the appropriate time to spend my hard earned money? This is a question that young people are regularly challenged by. The struggle is so real, so let’s break down what we can do about it.

Teenagers have a busy lifestyle. School, sporting, other commitments, and maintaining a social life are all time-sucks, so around the clock shopping can seem like a good option. If used effectively, you can economise your time and money, however many teens fail miserably at this and end up spending too much time and money on the addictive excessive. In a world of ever-developing technology, it is hardly surprising that online shopping can become a bad habit for young people.

Advertisements are everywhere! Every web page you visit is over done with money hungry online outlets, tempting offers which many of us fall for. It only takes one click and you’re sucked into a world of beautiful clothes and expensive accessories that are hard to resist. “Oh looking at one more page won’t hurt” I say to myself every time, and every time I manage to find something more I want – ‘want’ being the key word in this sentence.

Do I actually need it? ‘No’ is the sensible answer, but with little self-control, ‘no’ is not the path I will take, nor will many other teenagers, as their parents will know. Self-control is a big factor that young people struggle with when it comes to money. When pay day comes around, seeing all those digits appear in your bank account can be overwhelming. It’s easy to make the assumption that spending it on things you want is the best idea, and doing so online is the easiest way to that. However, as I’ve experienced, spending it all impulsively is not the most sensible option. As mentioned above, you may unexpectedly need to buy something essential but if you’ve spent it the instant you received it, you’ll be left with no cash in hand. So what should you do to minimize the likelihood of this scenario?

As someone who has had to face the truth when it comes to needs and wants, I would suggest save, save save! Logging into YouMoney and seeing all your hard earned money saved up is much more satisfying than that dress you impulse-bought and never wear. I have learnt to set aside some of my paycheque into a savings account so I have something tucked away to pay for unexpected expenses, because not everything can be planned for in advance. Of course, keeping some to spend on the things you want is okay too because teenagers need to have fun! Just remember: have some self-control, learn to say no and, most importantly, monitor your spending. Do so by setting yourself financial goals. When you achieve these financial goals, the feeling of success beats any shopping spree.

If you are studying or training and want to know how BNZ can help you manage your money, read more about our tertiary benefits for students and apprentices.