Ambitious Teen helps mom with family budget



There was a time in my life when I was a teenager and all I cared about was working, saving money and hanging out with my friends.

I didn’t have to worry about what my parents did with our family budget nor did I care. Growing up in our household my parents were frugal to the point that if we wanted something we worked for it.

They didn’t scour the weekly flyers because we didn’t have them but they would buy products reduced if mum was able to do something with them right away. My mums favourite was making pies with fruits that were ripe or ready to go off. That’s probably why I’m the way that I am in the kitchen.

Being that it was Mother’s Day (Mothering Sunday) March 15 in the UK yesterday this email made me remember growing up and what life was really all about in our house. My mother was and still is our rock and I can understand how this young lady is so determined to help someone so special and close to her heart.


Help with the family budget


I received an unusual request via email by a teenager whose mother is taking care of her and a younger sister. The mother works full-time yet she seems to keep building debt by purchasing things she doesn’t need.

Although I didn’t get any family budget figures from the teen what I do know is that this teen is one special girl wanting to help her mother this way. She has asked me for some budgeting tips and I’m happy to share with her what I can.

I’m by no means a debt killing wealth planning magician so as always I suggest speaking with a financial professional face to face when it comes to “money”.


A Teen and the family budget


Dear Mr.CBB

My name is Kristen and I hope you don’t mind if I don’t tell you my last name because I want to protect my family, mostly my mother. I made up this email address too. I’m sorry I just didn’t want anyone to know who I was but you can email me back if you want to ask me any questions.

As much as I love my mother its embarrassing growing up poor and having hardly any friends who want to hang out with you because they think you can’t afford to do anything. That was my life and now it’s my sisters.

We live in Toronto in a 2-bedroom apartment where my sister and I share a room. My mother was on welfare when my dad split but works a full-time job now making good money.

We grew up not having much money as my dad didn’t have the greatest of jobs. My parents fought about money all the time and probably what ended their relationship.

Since then we’ve struggled to put food on the table and clothes on our backs even though my mother would go to Value Village or get hand me downs from anyone she could. My mother smokes too which is a bad habit but she wants to quit even though she’s said it to me many times.

We don’t have a vehicle so we walk everywhere or take the bus if we have the money to pay for bus fare. Sometimes we can get free bus tickets from a local community centre downtown but we don’t mind walking. The schools and my mothers work is with-in walking distance so it’s not too bad except in the winter it gets pretty cold.

If my mother is really broke one month she takes us to the Food Bank to get free food which is mainly boxed and canned food that is pretty disgusting. I wish we could have more fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t even care about meat.

I am 19 years old now and wanting to further my education at the University of Toronto in the next year. I’m obviously going to be getting OSAP provided they offer it to me and I work part-time and pick up extra shifts when I can right now.

I’ve also saved all my money aside from paying for my everyday needs the past 2 years so hopefully I won’t have to get too big of a school loan.

I do pay my mom a bit of money for food every month but even that she didn’t want. She wants to provide for us. I don’t own a smartphone and if I want to use the internet I have to go to the library like I am today to email you.

I don’t have any teen issues except for the fact that I want to be someone who is successful in my life. I don’t want to grow up poor and I want to live in a house and have a family one day that I can participate in providing for.

I want a normal life. I’m tired of living life like this. I can only imagine what my mother feels. Sometimes she cries but she knows it will get better if she just stops spending money and gets her debt under control. I know I can help her.

The reason I’m emailing you is because my mother needs help with her finances and I was hoping you could just hear what I have to say.

I love math and I’d like to get involved with Accounting or something related to numbers when I graduate from University. I don’t like debt nor do I have any of my own. Some of my friends already have credit cards and debt. Not me.

My mom has about $5,000 in credit card debt and it seems like every month she pays off a bit then she has to use it again. We don’t have a line of credit and she has no savings in the bank. She is devoid of any type of investments which means no TFSA or RRSP.

I learned all about that by reading on the internet and hope one day I can start saving for my future retirement. I wish my mom would too. My mother tends to go to the mall after work where the grocery store is and ends up in the mall buying stuff she doesn’t need.

This is a big contributor to her credit card debt and I wish she would stop. I saved your free  budget from this website and I’m going to sit and talk to her about it this week. I’ve read everything you posted about it and it seems fairly straightforward. I am good with computers too and so is my mother thankfully. One battle down.

My mother wants to start a family budget as she doesn’t want to have debt any longer. What I want to know is if you can look at a few of the areas I will discuss with her and see if it makes sense what I want to say to her.

I don’t want to upset her but I do want her to know that I am here to help her. My upbringing has forced me to grow up faster but I’m certainly not going to be a slave to debt my entire life because of it.

These are the main topics I wanted to talk to her about outside of the family budget. I believe they contribute in part to her constant debt load that is never-ending.

Your family budget is built from basic finance concepts that we learn in school. That’s simple for me to understand, not so much my mother. You’d think with her job that she would get it at the level she is in but sometimes it amazes me what you can get by on if nobody knows.

These are some of the areas I will discuss with my mom.


Mom, you want to quit smoking because you’ve said it over and over. I’m hoping once we sit down to incorporate our family budget that you will consider quitting smoking. Not only will it be good for your health but it will save you a fortune every month.

That money you can put towards your debt-repayment. I won’t push my mother but I do want to let her know that I love her and want her to be around when I get married and have grand-children for her.


Alcohol is a waste of money especially when you don’t have money to waste. If you go out with your friends why not consider buying a less expensive beverage rather than booze that only seems to get you drunk and a bit lighter in your wallet or credit card. We all deserve to have fun but not all fun has to cost money.


Please mom can you grocery shop somewhere else besides the grocery store at the mall. I know that I am tempted every time I go with you grocery shopping and I can see how easy it is for you to spend money that you don’t have. There is another grocery store across the street that you can even price match at so why not give that a try and see how it goes.

Debt re-payment:

Every time you make a payment on your credit card you have to pay more than the minimum otherwise you aren’t paying off the principle. You shouldn’t be using the card because you keep adding debt as you pay off portions of it. Please hide it or get rid of it.

Family Budget Overall:

I’m hoping that when I sit with you to explain this family budget mom that you will be open-minded and optimistic about it working for you/us. I know that you want to get out of debt and I know that a budget will help you.

I’ve done lots of reading about budgets and I believe that if you designate money to certain categories every month that you will be debt free pretty fast.

I love you but I don’t like seeing you unhappy because you are always broke. The reason you are always broke is because you are obviously spending more money than you are earning at your job.

When I go away to school (I might not get in to U of T so I’ll be moving away) I won’t be here to help you and my little sister as much so I want to help you now while I’m home.

That is what I plan to say to her about my concerns then explain how to use your family budget. I am hoping to sit with paper and a pen and make notes with her so we can create our own categories for the family budget.

I’m also going to tell her how it made me feel growing up with nothing and the struggles I had making friends so she knows what my sister might be going through.

My question to you is… how do I keep her motivated and should she use a cash only budget?

Thanks for any help and thanks for making your posts easy to read. If you email me back remember that I have to go to the library (I’m there almost every day) so I might not get it right away but I will reply.

Thanks again.. K


Welcome to the family budget


Dear Kristen,

WOW, I don’t really know what to say except for you are one amazing young lady wanting to help your family like this. Growing up shouldn’t be this hard and kids should be focusing on having fun and learning to find their way in life not teaching their parents how to budget.

I’m impressed and I want you to know that I’ve read over your email several times and I believe that your mom can be debt free if she has you by her side. If your mother is serious about getting out of debt and creating this family budget she will let nothing get in her way.

I don’t know all the financial numbers that your mother is working with so I can’t really get into any dollar value tips for you. What I can say is that if a cash budget will work best for your mother then have her put the debit card away.

She can easily use the cash envelope system which is fairly easy to use and I’m sure you’ve read about it on CBB already. In fact Eva from Teens Got Cents wrote a guest post all about it for CBB that I think would be a great post to share with your mom if she wants to learn how do to budget with cash.

Overall, if you want to support your mother just be there when she needs you even if it’s a simple phone call, Skype or email. Sometimes even a hand-written letter goes further.

What we like to do in the CBB house is write out our goals on paper and put them on the refrigerator so we see them often. It motivates us more when it is in our faces. Maybe this might be a good suggestion for your mother and something you can all participate in together.

When Mrs. CBB and I quit smoking 3 years ago we wrote out goals and what triggers we had that pushed us to spark up a cigarette. If your mom wants to quit she has to do it on her own or with the aid of her doctor.

No one can push her into it but it will be the best decision in terms of her health and budget. We save thousands every year and just by quitting smoking I’m going to bet that $5000 debt of hers will be paid off in no time.

By the sounds of it your mother is in good hands and I’m sure that you will both be able to look back one day and realize that budgeting isn’t so bad after all. Please let me know how things go and if I can be of any more help you know where to email me.

Do you have any suggestions or motivational support for Kristen?


Note: If you have a question or story you want to share about your debt or financial success please send me an email or fill out the contact form on the blog.

I do ask that if you have a story to tell that you add as much detail to the story as you can for the readers and so I can reply. I do edit emails to fit the blog format and add relevant blog links as I see fit.

You don’t have to ever give your name.

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  1. Kristin, your mother is so lucky to have you! I commend you for wanting to help your mother out and get to a better place financially. As Mr CBB suggested, a good heart-to-heart, blame-free conversation is a great way to start turning things around. Let her know you recognize and appreciate how hard she is working to give you and your sister the best life possible and you want to help. If she has troubles staying out of the mall (and most people do), then maybe you and/or your sister can takeover the grocery shopping. Perhaps, you can even “hold” the credit card so she’s not tempted to use it. Tracking spending is key because most people don’t realize how they spend their money and there is typically some fat that can be trimmed. It can also give you insight into how/why you spend, especially on things you don’t need. One thing that may also help your Mom is clear, specific goals that she wants to achieve personally and as a family. Goals help give your money purpose and a strong reason to tell herself “no” when she is tempted to buy something she or the family doesn’t need because she and the family are working towards something more important. As a financial advisor, it makes me so happy to read your interest in helping others with their money. We need more like you, Kristin! Good luck!

  2. Hello Kristen,
    In BC we are lucky to have a smoking cessation program from the government that helps to pay for patches or pills to help you quit smoking. I suggest looking into what is available as an aid for your mother. I have often seen coupons for nicotine replacement patches and gum. There are also groups and websites that offer support. Smoking is an incredibly hard to kick habit. She needs to remember to take deep breaths; sounds silly I know, but when we smoke we stop and inhale deeply which relaxes the body. She is going to have a hard time relearning how to relax once she puts those smokes down.
    I think you are an amazing young lady to try and help your family with this. Can I also suggest bringing your younger sister in on the budget meetings? Perhaps not the first one – but she could learn a lot from this as well. Find the best place(s) to shop in your area – the easiest way to get away from the mall is to find better shopping prospects. There may be reasons you are not aware of yet (aside from fun mall shopping) that your mom chooses to shop at the mall. Do you have a patio or is there a community garden near your apartment? This might be a way to source fresh vegetables, and growing them is fun.
    As Kathryn said – just keep track of the money for a month, that will give you a base to start from for how much to allocate to each category of your budget. It also might help your mom realize how much of her money is getting spent on those mall trips. Don’t forget to put a little fun money in the budget though, not having anything to spend on yourself can often lead to sudden splurges and budget destruction (I’m speaking from experience here), and don’t spend much or any time with guilt when the budget breaks a bit or she has a smoke – these things will happen – the important thing is to get back on the horse and back on track. I’ve found in my fight with my inner budget breaker and smoker that I can waste tons of time and money while living in the guilt. Its better if I get past it and give it another go. Good luck Kristen.

  3. Keep track for a month of your spending. That will show you where the money goes. It may be as simple as taking a coffee everyday to work. Instead of stopping at a Tims…take a coffee from home, in a travel mug. There are some really nice mugs out there. Packing a lunch the night before. Buy larger packages, and break down into single serves (yogurt, cheese, snacks)

  4. Maybe the daughters would be willing to buy the groceries?
    Whatever the mother spends now, she hands over to you and you can help that way. Have a family meeting and start to share ways you could all reduce, reuse, recycle. Come up with ideas such as buying a roast/ chicken for sandwich meat, instead of deli meat. Use a bit less laundry detergent than the manufacturer recommends (we never buy those laundry pods). Many people use a ‘squirt’ when doing dishes. Water it down it a bit. Put shampoo/conditioner in a pump bottle, so it puts our a measured amount…..instead of the ‘ooops’ amount. Look for homemade cleaner recipes. Stock up on sales.

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