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#AskAlyson: Teens Spending Their Money


This letter was sent it from a parent:

Hi Alyson,


I’ve been to one of your workshops and I would really appreciate your advice on a problem we are having with our son. He is 17 yrs. Old and works part time. We insist that he puts part of his salary away and he is pretty good about it except when he wants to spend on his online gaming. He seems to have very little understanding for the value that money has. Now, he wants to spend $400 on a virtual knife. The initial cost was only $3 for the game.  While he has spent about $250-$300 on virtual weapons, he has made about $400 by trading them within the game.  His argument is that it is his money, he has birthday cash and he works. Do we let him buy it?

Thank you so much,



Dear Renata,

Thanks for your note.  The world of online gaming seems like a strange past time to many.  However, there are many activities and decisions that our teens make that don’t match our values or seem reasonable to us regarding how we would choose to spend our time (and money).   But, we are not our children.  They are their own unique people.   At 17, he is a young adult.  You can’t control what he does – but you can have an influence if you approach the situation collegially.


Let’s look at the facts:


He is not asking you to buy this virtual weapon for him.  If he was, you have the right to decline.  You make your own decisions, he makes his.  You are not willing to buy them.


He works so this is his own money to do with as he pleases.  It’s impressive that you have recommended he put half away and that he has co-operated with this request. I am not sure what the savings is for, or if he needs to reach some target for paying for some of his education. If that is the case, you should clarify that you won’t compensate or top up money he has spent from his savings.


Lastly, you can share your concerns about getting value for your money, but it seems this is his leisure and social activity.  If he were fixing up sports cars, or an avid angler there would be expenses too.  The cost of hobby equipment can add up in any genre.  Perhaps you could discuss what he thinks is a good total amount of money to dedicate to this area of his life and agree on capping the budget at some reasonable amount.


I personally loathe guns and if it was my child I would share my pacifist viewpoints and why shooting games are a problem for me – but only once.


If I felt he was getting addicted I would point out the behaviours I see that are worrisome, most notably interference with other relationships and responsibilities, falling marks etc.


Hope this helps.




The women with many pairs of black shoes that others might think are a waste of money 🙂


About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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