This post includes affiliate links.  This means that if you purchase something through my link, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you for your support! 

Dave Ramsey’s book *The Total Money Makeover changed our financial lives. Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze’s book, Smart Money, Smart Kids, changed our daughters’ financial futures as well.

As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our adolescents the skills to handle money.

It is our responsibility to teach our adolescents the skills to handle money. Click To TweetIt terrifies me to think I might raise entitled adults who are financially dependent on us!


*Smart Money, Smart Kids is told by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze as their family rebuilt their lives on Biblical financial principles after bankruptcy.  This book covers all ages, but many concepts are helpful to parents of tweens and teens.

Fundamental Principle:  Work

Age appropriate work is a necessary life skill.  “We teach them to work, not for our benefit, but because it gives them both dignity in a job well done today, and the tools and character to win in the future as adults,” Ramsey shares.

Yes, your teens need to do some work as being part of the family.  But, paying them for additional work gives them the opportunity for learning how to give, save, and spend.

Our Experience with Work:

Take courage, parents, this may be a challenge if your tweens and teens are not used to it!  At first, our daughters continued to ask us if they’d get paid for “this” (whatever they were asked to do).  We learned to say, “some things we do as part of our family, and some things we are paid to do so that we can learn to handle money.”

We track and pay our daughters on the first and fifteenth of each month.  They learned delayed gratification by working and resisting the temptation to spend before they received their pay.

Based on Cruze’s teenage business experience, both our daughters started their own businesses.  They serve people of all attitudes and develop an income outside of the home:

  • Our oldest daughter started “Tiny’s Truffles.” She sells four varieties of handmade truffles for gifts.  One time, several truffles disappeared from a community fridge where she passes off the truffles, labeled with names, at The Man’s workplace.  She replaced them free of charge.  It was a difficult lesson in learning to do the right thing, no matter what!
  • Our youngest daughter has a *Cricut® {affiliate} monogram business.  After frustrated customers were unable to apply the monograms, she learned to give written application instructions, complete with step by step photos.  She also learned to create boundaries by letting people know how many days it would take her to prepare the monograms!

Learn more about why your teen or tween should start a business!

Fundamental Principle:  Spend

It makes me laugh to think about teaching our girls to spend!  Of course, that’s easy!  But, it is more difficult to teach them the concept of responsible spending.

Allow your adolescent to feel the consequences of his/her spending while in the safe and supportive environment of your home.  Ramsey and Cruze suggest these concepts (teenagers) must learn:

  • Money is finite.
  • Delayed gratification
  • Opportunity cost: If you buy X today, you won’t have money to buy Y next week.
  • How to ask for a discount
  • The power of research before a purchase
  • Self-regulation:  Even “free spirits” can become responsible spenders who are also wise savers!

Our Experience with Spending:

We discovered the need to “think aloud” in front of our girls as we make money decisions. Click To Tweet

We discovered the need to “think aloud” in front of our girls as we make money decisions.  I wondered out loud if the endodontist would give me a cash discount for an unexpected root canal.  We *may* have squealed as we celebrated the 10% off that he gave me!  Now, oldest daughter plans to try the art of negotiation with cash when she buys her first car!

Our family loves to research cars.  Our oldest daughter found an old Mercedes convertible with low miles that is in her current budget for her first car.  Although I wanted to shout “No way,” I simply asked her to research safety, reliability, and the cost of maintenance.  She has not mentioned that car since!

When our youngest daughter wanted to immediately purchase a special camera, we asked her to “sleep on it.”  She decided that it was more important for her to save her money for other priorities.  And now, we have a great idea for a Christmas gift!

Fundamental Principal:  Save

This is a powerful chapter in Smart Money, Smart Kids!  Adolescents need to practice saving their money now so that they will be disciplined in the future.

Saving teaches self-discipline, goal setting, and patience in our instant society.

What should teens save for?

1.  An Emergency Fund

Ramsey recommends $500.  Parents still cover major expenses, but adolescents can cover minor ones such as a busted cell phone or a flat tire.

 2. Pay cash for a planned purchase.

Teens should save up for a goal such as their first car.

 3. Save for bills ahead of time.

Save a little each month for a once or twice a year bill, such as car insurance.

 4. College

Not every family can provide college.  Discuss this ahead of time with your teen.

5. Wealth building.

Ramsey says to “invest in yourself first” by getting through college debt free.  However, introduce the concept of compound interest!

Our Experience with Saving:

Again, we found it helpful to “think aloud” with our daughters.  We showed them how we save X amount each month for life insurance so that we could pay in full once a year.  Not only do we earn about 1.5% interest on the money in the account, but we receive a discount by paying the premium in full!

Anyone looking to buying a first car?  We had a nebulous plan for those first cars.  Now, we have a clear plan to follow based on Ramsey’s concept, the 401Dave!  Our girls are now saving for their first vehicles.  They will receive a match up to a certain amount.  Basically, if they save $100, they will earn $100.  Not only does this build the concept of the importance of the match in retirement savings, but they are highly motivated to save!


Need Help Encouraging Your Teenager to Save for a Car?

Use this FREE visual car savings chart!

Visual Car Savings Chart for Teens

Fundamental Principle:  Give

Ramsey and Cruze are Christians who follow Biblical concepts in regards to money.  Scripture is quoted throughout the book.

As Christ followers, we are called to be good stewards, or managers, of money.  Generosity and selflessness are admirable characteristics.

Ramsey and Cruze recommend teaching by example above all.  Let your adolescent see you give regularly and as opportunities arise.  For example, tithe, sponsor a child, provide disaster assistance, etc.

Cruze says, “We’re supposed to be good managers of everything that God has given us…That’s why I teach families the ‘Time, Talents, and Treasure idea of giving.’”  In other words, volunteer and use your talents to bless others in addition to giving money.

Our Experience with Giving:

This chapter completely changed our parenting approach to giving!  The Man and I used to let our girls put our tithe envelope in the plate at church.  Now, our girls tithe their own money.  Talk about a powerful experience!

It is now natural for our girls to be generous to others, especially when they see the effects of a natural disaster.  Our hope is that this will carry into adulthood!

Fundamental Principle:  Budgeting

Ramsey and Cruze share an incredible amount of information on budgeting! And, they top off what they teach with a “Student Budget” form at the back of the book.

Be the example:  As an adult, write down your goals.  Plan your giving, saving, and spending.  In order to hit your goals, you must prioritize where your money goes.

Student Budgets

Step 1 Give:  Help your adolescent recognize that everything he/she has is based on your love and care.  And, if you’re a Christ-follower, we recognize that God owns it all!  It takes maturity to care for others.

Step 2 Save:  Teach your teens to pay themselves first so that money doesn’t slip through their fingers.  It takes maturity to save for their futures!

Step 3 Use the “Student Budget” to help your teen prioritize his or her spending.

Our Experience with Budgeting

After a few mistakes, we learned to give our daughters progressively more responsibility for budgeting.

Ages 3-10:

  • Give, Save, and Spend piggy banks.  As the Save piggy filled up, we would help them deposit it in the bank.

Ages 10-12:

  • Give and Save piggy banks.
  • Spend Envelopes:   Their spend money was divided into different categories such as special clothes (we took care of their needs), gifts for friends, souvenirs, and miscellaneous (which usually meant treats and snacks).

Ages 12-14:

  • Save mason jar
  • Give:  A special pocket in their wallets holds Give money so that it is always available.
  • Spend Envelopes and Paper Clips:  More categories are added.  And, we learned to paper clip smaller amounts of money in their wallets, while leaving the bulk of the money at home for safety!

Age 15-18***

  • Open a Checking Account – Continue to add earned money, but also add our budgeted money for clothes and activities.  Our goal is for our daughters to learn to handle the responsibility while still under our supervision.
  • Use Budgeting Software to keep track of Give, Save, and Spend money.
  • Introduce the concepts of an Emergency Fund and Sinking Funds.

** We just hit this stage and this is what we plan to do.  I will keep you updated!

Smart Money, Smart Kids Financial Literacy for teens and tweens

Fundamental Principle: Avoid Debt

Debt myths such as the “necessity” of car payments, student loans, and credit cards are addressed in this section.  Parents, there is so much encouragement in this chapter (and other Ramsey Solutions products) to avoid debt!  The message across the Ramsey platform is the same, “Winning with money is only 20% head knowledge;  it’s 80% behavior.”  

Our Experience with Avoiding Debt

When our daughters were young, we took the first difficult step of avoiding car payments, based on Ramsey’s teaching.  It has changed our lives, beginning with our mindset!

Now, we are able to show our daughters how we save for cars and earn interest.  We show them the true cost of a new car:  add interest and take depreciation into account!

The real challenge will come when the credit card offers begin to tempt them.  Until then, all we can do is show how the interest adds up!

Fundamental Principle:  College without Debt

Can you go to college without debt? Ramsey and Cruze detail ways to avoid college loans based on “parent planning, school choice, financial aid, working while in school, and living a reasonable lifestyle.”

Parents, even if you cannot afford to send your child to college, this chapter will give you encouragement and hope!  Above all, we should remember that colleges want your money, but loans limit future freedom.  

Our Experience with College without Debt

We have not yet experienced sending a child to college.  However, this chapter gave us much to think about as we prepare.  Most importantly, we want our girls to know what to expect so that they can be prepared mentally and financially.

We have begun conversations as to what will be paid for in college.  And, we have laid down the expectation that they will do some form of work.

Fundamental Principle:  Cultivate Contentment

Contentment is “an attitude of peace and joy where you are even while you are working to be somewhere else,” according to Ramsey.  Ramsey and Cruze describe 3 stages of discontentment and offer up a cure:  gratitude.

Our Experience with Cultivating Contentment

Parents, our adolescents must learn that their value does not come from what they own or even what other people think of them.  This is such a struggle, especially if you or your teens are on social media!

We continue to work on this characteristic.   Teachable moments are used to observe contentment and gratitude.  We point out how much more attractive people with these characteristics are.

In serving others, we have noticed a trend: people with connections to family, friends, and support systems, such as a church home, are more likely to be content.  We’ve observed this across a variety of income levels and cultures!

We set our hearts each morning with an “attitude of gratitude” by writing in a Family Gratitude Journal before we leave.  I find it interesting that many things for which we are thankful are relationship based!

Fundamental Principle:  Relationship

The final three chapters may not truly be a fundamental principle, but they do affect finances.  Most successful people have quality relationships.  

My Final Thoughts

*Smart Money, Smart Kids is a book you need to purchase and re-read.  At different stages in your life, you will pick up different strategies.  And of course, it is always good to review contentment and basic financial principles.

Above all, Ramsey and Cruze give hope that a strong parent with boundaries and integrity can lead an adolescent to win with money!

Parents, what are some of your strategies for teaching financial principles to your teens and tweens?  I’d love to learn more!


Love: The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Teen/ Tween

Never before has there been a more important time to fill your teen/tween’s “emotional love tank.” In the world today, there is: So much brokenness.  So little connectedness. So much rejection. So little acceptance. So much humiliation.  So little...

read more

Financial Concepts Teens and Tweens Need to Know

Money Skills for Teens and Tweens Parents, we cannot depend on the schools, or even colleges, to teach our adolescents the skills for handling money.  It is up to us!  These articles will help you start your teen or tween on secure financial footing.  It...

read more


Navigating the Years


“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.”  Thank you for your support!

Copyright ©, 2018.  Use and/or duplication of website content is strictly prohibited.  A direct link may be used, provided that full credit is given to Ashley at All rights reserved.