The cost of youth: Why are teens so expensive?

The cost of youth: Why are teens so expensive?

The cost of raising a child can be more than you expect. Everything from clothes to food, it’s understandable that parents want the best for their children. But as they start gaining independence and longing for freedom, how much are we spending on our teens? Aviva’s recent Cost of Youth Report1  revealed that parents are spending £4,110 a year on their teenagers, excluding household costs such as groceries and utilities. This means that it costs an average of £28,7672  to support a 13 to 19 year old throughout their teenage life. So, we wanted to understand exactly how and why parents are having to put their hands in their pockets.

What are parents buying their teenagers? 

The graph below shows a breakdown of some of the most costly items and activities that parents are forking out for in the average year, highlighting some of the most costly areas. It’s clear that although many of these items are vital purchases, there’s also a large amount of money being spent on non-essential items – showing that the costs can quickly add up.



Why are they spending so much?

Our report revealed that nearly half (49%) of all parents feel pressured into spending more than they should do on their teens. But why is this happening?

With just under a quarter (24%) saying that they’ve fallen out with a teenaged child for saying ‘no’, and 17% admitting that they’ve experienced some form of emotional blackmail or guilt trip, it’s clear that they’re receiving a significant amount of pressure from their teenagers to spend money on them. However, influences from society, peers and social media have greatly increased the desire for teenagers to keep up with the newest trends and have the latest possessions – directly impacting the pressure put on parents to buy these for them.

There is a constant demand on us from all the product-marketing information which bombards us daily and from a celebrity culture fed by the media requiring us to dress in the right clothes and to own the latest gadgets.

Helen Morgan, Chair of the British Psychoanalytic Council3

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills4 reported that “young people are shunning Saturday jobs – opting instead to ‘play it safe’ by focussing purely on their studies, rather than enhancing their learning with part-time work.” As a result of not earning their own money, the reliance on parents to fund their hobbies and provide pocket money increases further.

Many parents are working longer hours to support their families. For example, according to the Modern Families Index 20165, more parents are working full-time, and some work an additional ten hours a week just to get the job completed. But this is having a severe impact on their work-life balance – taking a toll on family obligations and the amount of quality time they spend with their children. Although “family life is a priority for most parents, work consistency impinges.” As a result, this may lead busy parents to over-compensate by spending more money on their children instead, to keep them content and avoid potential conflict.

On top of all these factors, Dr Ramya Mohan6 explains there’s also “tremendous pressure on children, young people and their families to ensure better exam results and academic outcomes.” This may cause parents to feel inclined to spend money on additional educational support to boost their children’s learning.


What sacrifices do parents have to make?

To meet the demands of their teens, our report highlighted that many parents are having to make significant cuts and personal sacrifices elsewhere. For example:

  • 50% of parents say they have to draw on other funds aside from their regular income to fund their teens’ expenses
  • 37% sacrifice going out or socialising
  • 33% sacrifice saving money for their future, including putting money into savings and a pension
  • 28% sacrifice spending on clothing for themselves, with 19% saying they’d go without a haircut

How can you relieve some spending pressure?

  • Rethink gift ideas: Instead of buying material presents for your teenager’s Birthday and Christmas presents, why not spend the money on a fun family day out instead? You can research lots of free or low-cost activities online, such as a trip to the beach or picnic in the park. You’ll be able to celebrate the occasion, enjoy new experiences together, whilst also making the most of an opportunity to spend quality time with your family.

  • Help your teen find a part-time job: Instead of letting your teenager rely on pocket money you’ve given them, encourage them to find a part-time job. This will not only help them to learn the value of money that they’ve earnt themselves, but will also help to teach them key life skills. Studying for exams is important, however finding the right work can also be really beneficial for their CV – supporting them with their future careers or university applications.

  • Open a savings account: Helping your teen to open up their own bank account will help them to start managing their own money, and will encourage them to put money away each money. They’ll soon find it satisfying watching their savings start to build up over time.

  • Communication is key: Finances shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Don’t be afraid to regularly talk to your teenagers about managing their finances. They’ll be able to start getting to grips with how to budget, and feel that they’re able to talk to you about any money worries they have later in life.
  • Talk about the family finances: Be as open and honest as you can about your own family finances. This will help your teens understand that you too have lots of expenditure and need to carefully manage money. They’ll also start to get a good sense of how much living costs are, and a more realistic view of the family budget. Ultimately, this will give them a greater understanding of why as a parent you may not always be able to buy them everything they ask for.   
  • Stay strong: All parents want the best for their children, and it may be hard seeing them upset if you don’t buy them the latest phone or piece of clothing. But if you have a good reason not to make the purchase, don’t give in. Staying strong will help to teach them that we can’t always purchase everything we want to.
  • Cut costs elsewhere: Much of the spending on your teen will be unavoidable, which is why you may need to budget elsewhere. Read these top money saving tips for parents, so that you can start cutting down on unnecessary costs – helping you to avoid having to make other sacrifices.
Why are teens so expensive
1: 2,000 parents of children aged 13-25 took part in an online survey carried out by ICM Unlimited in July 2016. All findings are based on parents of teenagers aged 13-19 unless specified otherwise, with a total of 1,644 parents of children aged 13-19 participating in the survey. 
2: This excludes private education fees

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