Unless you are comfortably wealthy, most parents these days are using up their retirement portfolios, giving up restaurants, vacations, new cars and any other perk that one usually looks forward to in mid-life, to pay for their kids to go to college and have the freedom from debt as they start their young adult life. And most parents I know who do this, do it freely and with love. It is only when the semester grades start coming in, or the epidemic of changing one's major multiple times, that requires students to take additional courses (read more money) for their interest of the year, that parents start to wonder about the return on their investment. Many students I know are now on the 5 year plan due to flunked classes, need to make up credits or change of heart in what they want to study or do with their life. And because they have not been a part of the financial planning for their college career, and because they live in a fantasy world when it comes to money, and because many parents are afraid to talk money with their kids, they are not taking much responsibility for these decisions. Kids seem to want more, fancy phones, expensive video games, unlimited supply of clothes, and parents work hard to give them more. We aren't doing them any favors. Before they go to college is when they need to learn the meaning of money.
How many of your kids have any idea what their phone bill is, or their computer or cable bill that allows them to order movies on demand without regard to the extra $6.99 that appears on your bill.
How will your teens ever develop an appreciation for what things cost unless you teach them. I am a big advocate whether you are a family of means or a family where you need to count every penny, that you have a monthly date to go over the bills. Let them see just how many movies they did order and what the cost was. How much their portion of their cell phone cost. Dollars and cents, they need the reality. So much of teens lives in this 21st century make it easy to live in lalaland. They can say things without consequence through impersonal devices, they can order things without using the old fashioned greenback, and so it is no surprise that when they go off to college with a car full of new clothes and comforters that it feels magical. They absolutely need to know that college can cost up to $50,000 a year, and that is a sh**load of money.
Start teaching them now. They may not have to pay the bills, but at least let them know that it all costs the real deal...money. Maybe there is a limit on downloads and uploads, and scanning the bills together you develop some budget items. And NO UBER use unless it's an emergency and you really can't get them. I know that uber has become an easy way to ditch the late night pick-ups, the I don't feel like picking you up at so and so's house. But I have seen kids use uber because they don't feel like walking the 1/2 mile home from school, or they want to move to another house on a Saturday night where there are no parents, and think this is a sneaky way of doing it. This is enabling your teen to be, go, do whatever they feel like it, whenever they feel like it. Parents be damned!! Because truly, how many of you really check your credit card for uber charges specifically from your teen. This is a 21st century issue for entitled teens who are impatient, sometimes lazy and a bit sneaky, and for parents who finally have a secure way of moving their kids around when they don't want to! Lots of great stuff happens in the car with your teens, observing them with their friends, spontaneous conversation or trips for coffee or ice cream, and TIME!! Time is a very precious commodity these days. Don't outsource your time with your teens.
If you find yourself becoming your teen's personal ATM it might mean that your teen has lost awareness for how much and how he/she spends your money. So much of a teens life is magical. Using cell phones, computers, mom and dad's generosity, everything they want is literally in their fingertips. How about saying to your teen; "I am willing to give up to $$$ a month and then it's up to you if you want or need anything over and above." Just because your teen wants to go shopping every weekend that doesn't mean you have to shell out 40 bucks so they have some spending money. They may buy another T-shirt or video game, but because it was just a meaningless buy, no skin off their teeth, it ends up in a pile of other impulsive boredom buys. Do not just mindlessly buy or give your teen money. Make them work for something. Don't deprive them of that feeling of pride when earned money is what buys them something. Maybe it's a job, maybe it's money for chores, but teaching them that you don't get something for nothing is a valuable lesson.
This recent article from the New York Times offer some really interesting new options for teaching teens about money using prepaid debit cards. Maybe this might be a solution for you, but whatever you do...do something!!!