12 Things Every Teenager Needs To Know About Money (And How To Teach Them)

There Is More Free Money Than You Realize For College

Before Cell Phones - A Quieter Life

This is a guest post from Grant Baldwin, the author of Reality Check, a book about helping students transition into the real world. His new website, BrokePiggy.com, answers questions from teenagers about personal finance, savings, and all things money.


College Is Expensive.

Ok, so I figured you already knew that. I think most of us would probably agree that college is a solid investment that has the potential to pay big returns in the future, but like we already established…

College Is Expensive.

Statistics say that approximately two-thirds of college students have some education debt and that the average student loan debt is around $21,000. The inaccurate perception is that student loan debt is okay, because you are investing in education. But if you graduate from college with several thousand dollars in student loan debt and no way to pay it off, that’s a bad start to the real world.

So how do you graduate with as little debt as possible, or even better, no debt at all?

• FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid) – This is the single largest source of financial aid available, so you definitely want to fill this form out. The government will use this form to determine your eligibility for things like Pell grants and even some work-study programs.

• Scholarships – This is a numbers game. The more you apply for, the better your chances are of getting some. Think of it this way: if it takes you an hour to apply, and you get a $500 scholarship as a result, that’s a pretty good payday considering how little time you put into it. Last time I checked, McDonald’s wasn’t paying $500 per hour!

• Community College – I highly recommend getting some of your general education classes taken care of at a local community college. You will almost always find it to be much less expensive, and the classes can often transfer to a “better” school that you are interested in attending later.

• Work-Study Programs – Many schools offer the opportunity to have a part-time job on campus to help contribute towards the cost of your education. Check with the financial aid office of the school you’re interested in to see what opportunities are available.

• AP & CLEP Tests – These are two great ways to not only save money but to earn college credit while still in high school. AP (Advanced Placement) and CLEP (College Level Examination Program) are programs that allow you the opportunity to receive college credit for what you already know by earning qualifying scores on various tests.

• Live At Home – Living on your own isn’t cheap. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to leave the nest, spread your wings and fly, the airfare is expensive. You can save literally thousands of dollars by postponing your departure for a little longer.

Can you add any other ideas?

This series “12 Things Every Teenager Needs To Know About Money (And How To Teach Them)” is a community blog experience.  This post is only one of the 12 points in the series so to view the other 11, please visit the list of links below.

  • Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees @ Bargaineering
  • Two Words: Compound Interest @ PoorerThanYou
  • Delay Gratification To Succeed @ GatherLittleByLittle
  • Living On A Budget Isn’t An Option @ TotalCandor
  • Credit Cards Will Steal Your Lunch Money @ Prime Time Money
  • Should You Earn A College Degree? @ TheDigeratiLife
  • Spend Money Based On Needs Not Wants @ MoneyNing
  • Living On Your Own Isn’t Cheap @ Studenomics
  • Taxes Are A Necessary Evil In Life @ MoneySmartLife
  • Do What You Love, Love What You Do @ GenXFinance
  • Don’t Be A Tightwad: Give Generously @ CashMoneyLife
  • This is a guest post from Grant Baldwin, the author of Reality Check, a book about helping students transition into the real world. His new website, BrokePiggy.com, answers questions from teenagers about personal finance, savings, and all things money.

    Creative Commons License photo credit: Sister72

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    Published or updated August 21, 2016.


    1. I’ve been enjoying reading the other posts in this series. I used a work study program and a scholarship to help get me through college. (I also took out some student loans, but that was through sheer stupidity and a desire to have fun rather than an actual need.) It is important to understand these things as teenagers, and work hard. There are more rewards in the long run.

      Miranda’s last blog post..Why Waste Time when you can Build Wealth?

      • @ Miranda – It’s tough to get these ideas through to teenagers but you have to keep drilling it. It’s also important that us adults lead the way to help them understand our experiences.

        @ Olivia – That sounds like a great avenue to check out! And a part-time job that offers tuition assistance is amazing.

        @ Money Energy – Many scholarships have their niche but that works to a student’s advantage as well. Based on who they are they may be able to find money that’s sitting out there waiting for them. It could even be due to what their parent’s do as well. The point is you have to look. There’s money out there.

    2. Another way to make free money for school once you are in college is to come up with a good research idea and apply for grants. I know our college offers ORCA undergraduate research awards for students with good ideas for research.

      Also, a few (but not many) part time jobs offer tuition assistance. Don’t pass up on those jobs!

      Olivia’s last blog post..Frugal Fashion–Dress Your Best for Cheap!

    3. Yesterday I just did a post with a slightly different take on the same theme, entitled “5 Money Lessons You Should Learn While You’re Still In College or University.” The suggestion about applying for scholarships is a great one, but of course, many scholarships don’t apply to every student, which is the down side.

      MoneyEnergy’s last blog post..How To Get Started in Commission-Free, Fee-Free Investing

    4. good suggestions!

    5. I was surprised to learn from the recent Sallie Mae study just how much college students these days are relying on credit cards. 64% of college kids wish they had had some form of financial education in high school. Until it’s formally taught in the classroom, I think it’s so important for parents to sit down and explain credit to their kids.

      Carrie’s last blog post..College Kids and Credit Cards: Sallie Mae’s Latest Study

    6. I should also include a shout-out for SpendOnLife’s scholarship program. This scholarship is geared towards college students that have been denied financial aid due to past or current credit problems.

      Carrie’s last blog post..College Kids and Credit Cards: Sallie Mae’s Latest Study

      • @ Carrie – Problem is, many parents can’t handle credit cards themselves! I agree that it’s something that should be taught in high school. You get to college and you have all this new freedom and then a credit card company hands you a credit line with a free t-shirt!

    7. I think this is one of the most useful posts of the series. Very good advice.

      I’m really enjoying this series. Check out my Q&A with BrokePiggy’s Grant Baldwin (not officially part of the series, but if you’re interested in his story and why he started BrokePiggy, check it out) http://www.hereverycentcounts.com/2009/04/broke-piggy-teaches-teens-about-money.html

    8. Grant @ BrokePiggy.com says:

      Thanks for your involvement in this series FFB!

      • @ Grant – Thanks for putting it all together and including me in it!

        @ OBB – That is a lot of money and it’s all there for the taking!

        @ Ashley – Ha, a student could say they gave their blood for their degree and really mean it!

        @ Caveman – True. The military does offer lots of college programs! A student should look into every option.

    9. I just heard that over $4 billion of scholarship money doesn’t get awarded each year. That is a lot of money that students are passing up.

      Online Banks Blog’s last blog post..Are You An Online Banks Account Holder?

    10. Being in College is really expensive. But I have learned just recently that you can earned an extra income on being a plasma blood donor. I think this will be great especially for college student. You can make up to $50/hour for plasma blood donation!. As we all know, Blood bank shortages kill tons of people all the time. A great advocacy for saving lives and at the same time you can have an extra money.


    11. That One Caveman says:

      I’ve written about this in the past. One glaring omission from your list is military service. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but you can easily graduate with little-to-no debt by using one of the military’s many college plans.

      That One Caveman’s last blog post..Life Insurance Is an Affordable Necessity

    12. Not to advertise… but:


      I wrote 3 guest posts on exactly this topic!

      I think there is a lot of detailed information… around 4,000 words 🙂

      MLR’s last blog post..What Method Do You Use for Networking?

    13. Very good tips. Minimizing student loan debt is essential for building a future after graduation.

      Anthony’s last blog post..Kroger Employment

    14. Prelaunchinsider says:

      Working while studying. This is another way not to be loaded with debt after college. To be self-sufficient while young is no joke thus it takes courage to start it early.

    15. Living Off Dividends & Passive Income says:

      you’re right, it is expensive – that’s why creating some side income is a great thing to explore when in college.

    16. One nice thing is that for most people, college isn’t as expensive as their listing price. Most give out nice four-year scholarships and financial aid does help a lot! That doesn’t mean that you should be lax on your savings, but applying to colleges that you didn’t originally think you could afford!

    What Do You Think?