Devon, 17, is used to paying her own cellphone and car expenses. But lately it's
been harder. The family she babysits for hasn't been calling as much and she couldn't
find a job over the summer. Devon's dad says it's a sign of the tough economy. He
told her he's feeling the pinch, too, and that he had to dip into her college fund
to pay the mortgage.
Even though the economy has largely bounced back after the recent recession,
some families were hit really hard. It can take time for things to get better, even
after the economy is back on track.
How Money Problems Can Affect Families
For some people, an economic slowdown means eating out less or staying home instead
of going on vacation. Parents may not have as much money to put toward allowances
or college funds. For other families, though, money problems mean bigger changes,
such as a parent taking on a second job or the family having to move to a less expensive
When a family has money worries, it's easy to get frustrated and upset —
and if you feel that way, you're far from alone. Parents also might be more stressed
out than usual. They might argue more and worry about how to pay for things.
Naturally, this can put extra stress on you, too, especially because parents' money
problems aren't something you have any control over. But although you can't solve
family money troubles, you may find that contributing in some way helps you feel better.
What Can You Do to Make Things Easier?
It's comforting when our lives and routines feel the same, so it's natural to feel
worried if things change.
Here are some practical and emotional survival tips for dealing with money troubles:
Think like an entrepreneur. Jobs may
be hard to find, but a slow economy can open up new opportunities. The couple you
babysit for might cut back on evenings out, but they could be interested in hiring
you for after-school care. Perhaps it's time to hold a yard sale to get rid of the
old toys and baby gear in the basement — or help your parents sell these items
online. If you're good at navigating online auction sites, you could charge people
a fee to sell their old stuff.
Prioritize and plan for what you want. When you want something,
write it down. Next to it, write how much you want it on a scale of 1-10. Keep this
list going (items may move up or down the scale as you add new ones). Then figure
out a plan to earn any must-have rewards.
Talk out troubles. If you're worried, find a good time and talk
to your parents about it. Let them know you can handle the truth. If your parents
are fighting, seem stressed, or are sad or angry all the
time, talking can really help. If you can't talk to your parents right now, lean on
a friend, teacher, or counselor.
Practice the art of patience. Some of your friends might have
the latest smartphones, video games, and basketball shoes, but others may be having
a tougher time than you. You might not be able to get everything you want, but now
is a chance to see if you can master the art of patience without envying friends or
feeling negative about your parents.
Focus on the positive. Writing down (or drawing) your frustrations
in a journal can be a big step toward dealing with them. But also try to write
down three things that you are grateful for each day (or illustrate or write songs
if you're more of an artist or composer).
Help your friends. What if a friend is in a really tight spot?
Even if you can't think how to help, try just listening: Tell your friend you know
it must be hard and that you'll be there for support no matter what. Most friends
welcome the chance just to talk through feelings and know that someone understands.
Deal with change, but don't burden yourself. It's good to step
in to help friends and family. But it's also good to remind yourself that you're still
young and family money troubles are beyond your control.
Finding Entertainment on the Cheap
Being creative helps you feel good about yourself at times when life isn't going
as you planned. And coming up with free ways to have fun gives your creativity a chance
Some ways to stay entertained are obvious: Go to the park, ride a bike, take a
neighbor's dog for a walk, volunteer, or cook dinner for your friends or family. But
why stop there? Think of this as a time to challenge your imagination:
Record some music. If you have a computer and microphone, all
you need is your talent.
Have a karaoke party. The worse the singing, the better the fun.
Redecorate your room without spending a dime. Use only stuff
you have around the house or found items like shells or old furniture. Discover new
uses for old things, like making pillows and lampshades out of old dresses.
Learn a new language. Borrow a teach-yourself book or CD from
Design your own clothes or jewelry. Check out thrift stores for
clothing you can cut up and customize, or use found items to make jewelry.
Plan a surprise picnic for your friends. Do the whole blanket
and picnic basket bit, then find a park or beach and take in the view (and the people
Start your own ghost tour. Check out the creepiest houses in
your area and take friends on "haunted house" tours so you can all make up stories
about what might have happened there. If you live in a historic town you may be able
to research town history and discover enough interesting stories to put together a
Become a caricature artist. If you're good at art, teach yourself
how to draw caricatures. Practice on your family, then when you get better, rent yourself
out for children's parties.
Host movie night. Local libraries often loan out movie projectors
and movies for free. Get your friends to bring popcorn, pick an upbeat or funny movie,
Eventually the economy will turn around. When it does, you'll be well equipped
to deal with any other challenges and difficulties life throws your way!