Real-life money lessons

How to Give Your Middle-Schooler Additional Freedom in Making Money-Related Decisions

Last week, J and I had a conversation about what else he would like to learn about money. He’s going to middle school in the fall and I mentioned it would be a great opportunity to give him some extra responsibilities.

We talked about how additional responsibilities will actually give him more of a chance to make decisions on his own, better known as freedom. So he suggested I use the word freedom in the title because freedom sounds better than responsibility.

We brainstormed some possibilities and came up with the items below.


What if he was responsible for buying his lunch? Or if he wanted to pack, what if he was responsible for buying and making his own lunches?

There would be some requirements on choosing healthy items and a bit of coordinating with the schedule to allow some time for him to do this, but it’s definitely a contender.

And wouldn’t this be a win/win? It would free up some of my time, too.


What if J was responsible for buying some of his clothes? A new shirt for Easter? New sweatpants when he rips a hole in the pair he has? A pair of jeans when the ones he has no longer fit?

We could also try just specific types of clothing (like socks and underwear) or I could contribute or match amounts. Last year when school started, I gave him $20 towards new tennis shoes and he was responsible for paying the difference for whatever pair he chose.

Having to buy at least some of your own clothes teaches:

  • How to take better care of the clothes you have
  • What it looks like when clothes are worn out or too small
  • How to replace clothes frugally
  • Independent decision making — how to choose and buy what you actually like (vs. just what your mom picks out for you)


J currently budgets for Christmas gifts, but what if he budgeted for birthday gifts, too? Gifts for friends, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and/or cousins. And let’s not forget about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Maybe we wouldn’t start with all of that, but just gifts for friends or Mother’s/Father’s Day.

I could match here, too (with a maximum amount of course).


We currently have a monthly-ish standing playdate with two of his good friends who moved to another school district. We often go dinner and the trampoline park. When I mentioned him pitching in for this, he said, maybe we can just go to the park instead.

I love the idea of him having more of a say in what we do. I think this would help his decision-making skills, too, which he sometimes has trouble with.


I schedule a haircut for myself and J once a month. His haircut is $10, plus a tip would be $12.

I like that this is a simple, inexpensive and recurring expense. He would have to remember to get and have cash as our stylist doesn’t accept cards.

The drawback would be that he doesn’t have much control over when or how often I schedule the appointments, or the cost because we go to the same place every time. But at $12 once per month, maybe that’s okay. (And maybe later, he’ll be on his own to schedule his own appointments whenever and wherever he likes.)


We love roller skating and J loves going to the movies. He also likes renting movies and getting pizzas on Friday nights. Paying for his share of these fun activities would be doable for him (and teach him a little something).


We share a lot of the same toiletries (like soap) but he has his own toothpaste, deodorant and mouthwash. What if he was responsible for buying those items when they ran out?

This isn’t a fixed amount, but it’s relatively inexpensive so it wouldn’t be too much of a burden at his age. It may also teach him that these things don’t just appear; when you run out of something, you have to remember to buy more.

Final thoughts

So far these are the ideas that may work for his age and our family. I don’t think I’d implement everything all at once, but maybe one or two things to start.

Before choosing, we’ll talk again to see what he might want to try. I imagine I’ll end up increasing his allowance, but also suggesting that he start to look for other opportunities to earn some extra money. Summer is coming up, which may be the perfect time to see if his grandparents need help with any extra chores.

Putting a few extra costs on his shoulders will also let us dive in to pencil and paper budgeting, which I’m really excited about. (Right now, J decides what to buy and how much to spend based on the total he has on his FamZoo spending card.)

We’ll keep you posted on how it goes. But in the meantime, what other ideas do you have? Please share in the comments below!

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