So, you want to know how to save money as a teenager? Maybe you’re tucking money away to buy the newest iPhone, looking to pad your bank account before heading off to college, pitching in for your very first car, or just hoping to finally hit “Check Out” on that Amazon cart full of TikTok beauty products you’ve been dying to purchase.
Saving money is simple, at least on paper — it's just spending less than you earn each week. But if it seems like the direct deposit from your after school job just disappears no matter how hard you try, it might be time to get creative with your approach to saving. Not to fear though — we’re not just going to tell you to stop buying caramel lattes and brunch. Instead, we tapped money experts — including Lauren Anastasio, Director of Financial Advice at Stash — who know a thing or two about saving (and spending!) to share their insights on the best and most realistic ways for teenagers to save money.
Every teen can get creative and learn how to save money from home — no job required. From buying clothing secondhand to using coupon code extensions to simply leaving your credit card at home, below you'll find creative tricks and hacks for saving money beyond the typical “tuck away 20% of your paycheck” advice. Keep reading for the best money-saving tips for teens.
1. Open up a savings account and automatically set aside money in it from each paycheck
If you don't have a bank account yet, your parents' financial institutions may offer student and teen savings accounts to get you started. A savings account where you can set aside your birthday or graduation money or paychecks for future emergencies or opportunities is a great way to start saving up. It's a safer way to stash your money than tucking your cash or checks away in a drawer. Plus, some savings accounts will allow you to accrue interest on your deposits, which can help you build up you savings further over time.
If your job offers direct deposit, see if your employer lets you split the check into different accounts, so you can automatically set aside some of that money from each paycheck to go directly into a savings account. "It's really, really helpful to direct deposit your paycheck into two separate places," Anastasio says. "The bulk of our paycheck goes into one checking account and the remainder goes into a savings account at a completely different financial institution so there's no temptation to spend what [you] want to be saving." By automating the process, the money goes directly into a savings account before you can spend it.
Automating your paychecks isn't just great for teenagers — it's a practice that you can carry with you for the rest of your life, and it's a habit that's great to start while you're just beginning your savings journey.
2. Track your spending
Many people don't know exactly how much they're spending each month, or which categories (food, transportation, clothing, beauty) they spend the most on, but being aware of how much you spend is the first step to being in control of where your money goes. By tracking each expense, you can get a better feel for where your money is going and make sure it's in line with your priorities and goals. It can also help you to identify places you could save money.
You can track your expenses the old-fashioned way by keeping a journal, or opt for a simple spreadsheet with columns for categories, expenses, and the dollar amount. There are also budgeting apps that'll help you automatically track your expenses, making it super easy to keep a budget. Both YNAB (You Need a Budget) and Mint will link to your bank account, allowing the app to track and categorize your spending for you. You'll be surprised at the money you'll naturally save just by being aware of how much you spend each month.
3. Figure out a list of trade-offs you're willing to make
If saving money sounds unappealing because you think you'll have to cut out things you enjoy, we're here to tell you that swaps can be even more effective at helping you save than eliminating something completely. The idea is to look for areas where you can swap for a less expensive or free option. The key is figuring out trade-offs that won't feel like a big sacrifice. If giving up your daily Sbux run feels like a punishment, find a different way to save — maybe eat breakfast at home instead of buying a breakfast sandwich too, or pack your lunch on those days.
Some easy trade-offs include packing your own study snacks rather than buying them from the cafeteria, biking or carpooling instead of taking an Uber or Lyft, and planning a date night where you and your boo cook at home instead of spending money at a restaurant.
Marianna Hewitt, co-founder of TikTok-famous vegan skincare brand Summer Fridays, avoids purchase regret by testing a travel-size version of a product before investing in the full-size product. In partnership with Credit Karma, the female founder shares her best money-saving tip. "If I'm not really sure I want to spend all that much money on a large size of a product, I'll buy a mini to see if it works for me and only invest in the larger size if I end up really, really liking it," Hewitt explains.
4. Hide your debit/credit card and use cash
Don't get us wrong — credit cards are great for building credit, and debit cards will help you access money that gets deposited into your checking. But if you struggle with swiping that card a little too freely, you might want to leave it at home occasionally.
"Studies have found that when someone is using cash rather than a debit or credit card, they actually spend about 9% less at checkout because they're more conscientious about the prices and limitations, whereas using a credit card often feels like unlimited money," Anastasio explains.
If you're going shopping with friends and you only put $40 worth of cash in your wallet, that's all you'll spend. On the other hand, if you have a credit or debit card with you, you're more likely to spend more.
5. Pick a credit card that helps you become more aware of the effects of your spending habits
Because having a credit card might make it easier to accidentally spend more money than you intended, you'll want to pick your credit cards wisely. Some credit cards offer spending trackers that show you which categories you are spending the most money in, so you can better prioritize your spending and budget more effectively. This way you can see if the areas you're spending the most in line up with your goals, and better eliminate unnecessary expenses.
Some cards will even help you access your purchases based on your values. For example, the FutureCard (which is a charge card that will pull payments for each of your purchases directly from your bank account every few days rather than offering you a monthly credit limit) gives you a FutureScore that shows you the carbon footprint of your lifestyle — and rewards your climate-friendly purchases by giving you 6% cash back. For example, Future will pay you $3 for using their card to make a sustainable $50 purchase at a secondhand store like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. "Thinking about your carbon footprint is a less commonly known way to save, so we're trying to make that more visible," says Eunice Jung, Head of Partnerships at Future. "When people know the environmental impact of their purchases, they can incorporate the knowledge about their carbon footprint into their everyday decisions when they choose to spend or not spend."
6. Explore platforms that let you buy and sell items secondhand
Apps like Poshmark, Mercari, Ebay, and Depop allow you to sustainably sell items that you haven't reached for in a while by ensuring that they go directly to a new home, and make a little extra cash on the side while doing it. Poshmark seller Emma Coffey tells Seventeen that she's been selling on the clothing app since she was 13 years old to help grow her savings and earn extra spending money while in school. "I made sure to set aside time in between classes and over the summers to list items I knew were trending, would sell fast, and sell for top dollar. Plus, it's helping me gain experience to pursue a career in fashion," Coffey shares.
These platforms are also great places to shop secondhand, which is better for the environment and your budget. Those designer sneakers you've been eyeing? You might be able to find a gently used pair for half price on Poshmark or Ebay.
7. Take surveys or join focus groups
There are websites that'll pay you in gift cards to take surveys, like Swagbucks, Inbox Dollars, LifePoints, Survey Junkie, and more. You won't get rich quick by taking these surveys, but if you're looking for something mindless to do while watching a movie on Netflix, this could be an easy way to make some extra money.
Focus groups, on the other hand, are a bigger time commitment but they'll often pay a higher dollar amount, too. These interviews are usually conducted by companies that need to research anything from video game preferences to soda taste tests. Focus groups might take place in person, but many of them are online, meaning you won't even have to leave your home to get paid.
8. Find a part-time job
One of the easiest ways to save more money is simply to make more money, so getting a part-time job is worth considering. If you're not yet old enough to get a job at a local restaurant, coffee shop, camp or store, ask your parents to ask around and see if anyone in your community is looking for a babysitter, a lawn-mower, a tutor, or a car-washer. You could also look into paid internships, which allow you to get experience in a field you may be interested in pursuing later while earning extra cash.
9. Pick a Budget Buddy
Have your friends join in on the money-saving fun! "It's like having a gym buddy," Anastasio explains. "If you are saving up for prom or spring break, sharing that with a friend can be really motivating because you'll have the power of two looking for opportunities to save."
Your Budget Buddy will know your savings goals, so they'll be less likely to invite you to do expensive activities and will encourage you to find more affordable (and equally fun) alternatives, like carpooling, having clothing swaps, or hosting a potluck or a dinner party instead of going out to eat every weekend. "They might offer to watch a movie at one of your houses instead of going to the movie theater," says Anastasio. "They'll be someone else to hold you accountable and cheer you on when you need some help."
10. Take advantage of student discounts
You never know until you ask. "A lot of retailers, even like local restaurants, coffee shops, retail boutiques, anywhere that’s in the town of the university would offer a student discount," Anastasio suggests. "Most of these discounts extend to high school students as well."
We compiled a list of 20 online stores that offer student discounts. Snagging these student-specific savings will help you save money without having to dramatically change your lifestyle. Small amounts add up over time!
11. Use a coupon code extension for your browser
If online shopping is your weakness, automate the savings by installing a browser extension that automatically searches for and applies the best coupon codes for your purchase. It only takes a few minutes to install the extension for a lifetime of savings. Honey, Slickdeals, RetailMeNot, and Rakuten are popular choices for extensions that'll scour the internet for discount codes and help you save money while you're online shopping.
12. Figure out when to save and when to splurge
Figuring out what types of things you want to spend more money on versus the things you can skimp on or forego is key, especially when you're a teenager with limited funds. If you know that you won't be happy with the dupe version of that designer bag, save up for the real deal and splurge on it. But that means you'll have to find another area to save, maybe by skipping packing your lunch for a couple months, in order to afford it. Maybe you don't care as much about clothes, so you're willing to save there, but you like to spend more on doing fun things with your friends like going out to eat. Hewitt suggests defining when to save — and when it might be okay to splurge occasionally. For example, she’ll choose to spend on a matcha latte and good skincare products "if I know they're going to fix an active concern, whereas body lotion, I might not need to spend as much on."
Defining your boundaries for healthy spending on everything from coffee to makeup removers will serve you long past your teenage years. “Learn how to start budgeting now, because how you spend and shop today can really affect you in your 20s and 30s,” Hewitt notes.
13. Create a vision board or wallpaper
"It’s very difficult to be motivated to save money when there's not an end goal in mind. But having this light at the end of the tunnel where you're saving up for a car, your dream prom dress, or attending Senior Week helps so much, because then it's a lot easier to make smart money decisions,"Anastasio explains. "Once that specific goal comes along all of a sudden we become very creative individuals and find ways to earn it."
Pairing your savings goals with tangible results will help you when you're presented with money choices. "When you're trying to decide between going out to dinner with your friends or inviting them over to hang out, think about what that $30 you saved could go towards," suggests Anastasio.
Making a vision board or phone background that reminds you of that goal will help constantly remind you why you're saving — even when the going gets tough. It's easy to write up your own savings mantra using a free graphic design service like Canva, and you'll be reminded of your goals each time you check your phone.
Hannah is the Assistant Fashion & eCommerce Editor at Seventeen and covers all things style, shopping, and money. Seventeen taught her how to get dressed when she was younger, and she now spends her working hours passing down her expertise.