5 tips to help teens and young adults manage money

By Gail Belsky

At a glance

  • Teens and young adults need to learn to manage money as they become independent. 

  • Certain learning differences and ADHD can make it harder to work with money and budgets.

  • There are strategies that can help teens and young adults manage money.

Teens and young adults need to learn how to manage money, especially as they start getting jobs and being more independent. But certain learning differences like and can make it harder to understand and work with money, make budgets, and monitor spending.

Here are five strategies that can make managing money easier.

1. Create a system.

Developing a system can help people keep track of weekly spending. This might include money spent on gas, entertainment, and food. For regular expenses, teens can put reminders on a wall or in their phones. Using a spreadsheet can help keep everything in order.

With young adults, set up a system for organizing money-related paperwork. One way to do that is with color-coded folders. For instance, pay stubs might go in a green folder, receipts in a red one, and tax forms in a blue one.

2. Use a calculator to figure out costs and tips. 

Don't be embarrassed to pull out a calculator during money transactions. Doing mental math is hard for some teens and young adults who learn and think differently. Making mistakes can literally end up costing money and throwing off a budget. It can also create stress, especially at the moment it’s time to pay. Many phones have built in calculators.

3. Use envelopes.

Figure out the next month’s expenses and fill different envelopes with cash for each one. Identify which envelopes must have money in them — like the one for transportation to school. And figure out which envelope to take money out of if funds are running low elsewhere.

4. Try apps.

There are also apps that can help teens and young adults budget and keep track of spending and savings. Some examples are Spendee, Wally, and Mint.

5. Set a goal.

Pick a special purchase and figure out how much money to set aside each month to pay for it. Also set a goal for saving money in general, and set up a bank account for just that purpose.

Learn more: Find out why managing money is hard with dyscalculia and with ADHD

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    About the author

    About the author

    Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Jim Rein, MA has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and thinking differences.