Your Tween Actually Can Manage a Clothing Budget

Check out our tips and tricks for teaching your tween this oh-so-important life skill.

You know what’s more fun than saying no to your tween’s request for overpriced jeans? Saying yes! to handing over the clothing budget. You will no longer be the bad guy, and your tween will feel independent and capable. Check out our tips below, and get ready to be wowed by your tween’s newfound life skill.


Start Small
If your tween has never managed money before, don’t hand over their entire year’s clothing budget all at once. Start with the money for say, a winter coat, then have them work their way up to a season, and finally the whole shebang. 

Pick Your Method
Go analog or digital, depending on your tween. My children started with cash when they were young — seeing it slowly dwindle can be really motivating — but quickly moved to a digital option (they’re eight and eleven now). We are almost evangelical about the budgeting app YNAB, but there are lots of digital options: Mint, a regular debit account or a good old spreadsheet. I recommend staying away from handing over your credit card, unless you are willing to learn from their mistakes, too. 

Set Ground Rules
If your tween isn’t going to be allowed to wear a bikini, make sure that’s established before the shopping trip at Popina.


Give your child one column for needs, like socks and that oh-so-necessary raincoat, and a second for wants, like that awesome and completely impractical sequin jacket. Most important: make sure they know which to shop first. They’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way, but this will keep them from the most painful (hello, too small Vans).

Deals, Deals, Deals!
Shop off-season, shop consignment or Goodwill, and if you want really great deals, shop yard sales. It helps to build this kind of shopping into your regular schedule. We stop by Hoot-N-Annie after my son and daughter finish ballet class, and we go to yard sales every Friday. Don’t have an agenda — that’s asking for disappointment — but do reference The List. 

Don’t forget to encourage your tween to seek out free clothing. My local Buy Nothing group passes a clothing round robin from neighbor to neighbor, and many a neighborhood kid has benefited, my tweens included. You keep what you like, add from your closets and pass it on. But if a clothing exchange isn’t in the cards, have your tween reach out to that older cousin, neighbor or friend. Hand-me-downs are great for the planet and your tween’s budget. If they get the essentials for free, they can splurge on those Nikes. Motivation, baby. 

Raise Little Entrepreneurs
Clothing budget too small, they say? Nothing a little hard work can’t fix! Encourage your tween to offer their services to trusted neighbors, i.e. mail pick-up during vacation, pulling weeds or walking dogs. I’ve also sold things for my kids on OfferUp and Craigslist when they wanted a little extra cash and were willing to give up an old holiday present. Tweens can also sell their clothing at consignment stores, or even quality clothing they’ve snagged at yard sales for pennies. 

Resist Rescuing
This is the hardest bit. If your tween bought that pricey Athleta swimsuit and now only has leggings with holes in the knees, try to resist buying new leggings. Help problem-solve if you must (freecycle!), but do let them learn from their mistakes. Summer is a great time for learning, since school’s out and the pressure to be put-together isn’t so strong. Making mistakes is part of the process, so don’t stress when it happens.

Have Fun
It has been years since I’ve had to say “no” to something my kids wanted to buy. Instead I just pull up the budget app and say, “This is how much money you have in your Spend category.” It’s glorious, let me tell you. 

Here’s a sampling of local discount clothing stores to get your tween started, and happy budgeting! 

Buffalo Exchange – Downtown and SE

Plato’s Closet – Beaverton

Goodwill – Multiple locations

Rerun – NE

Katelyn’s Closet – SW

Fat Fancy – NE

Hoot-N-Annie – NW and SW

Meg Asby
Latest posts by Meg Asby (see all)
Scroll to Top