A teenager accused of buying an “excessive amount of clothes” while her family “struggles to make ends meet” has been supported by users on Reddit.
In a post shared under the username Usual-Farm-223, the 18-year-old wrote that she recently started her first full-time job and lives at home with her mom and the teen’s four siblings.
A stock image of a young woman holding different clothes against herself in front of a mirror. A teenager who bought an “expensive” pair of jeans while her “family struggles to make ends meet” has been backed by users on Reddit. iStock / Getty Images Plus
According to the U.S. government’s Youth.gov website, “Many youth have not received either formal or informal guidance on financial matters. So, they may not be ready to make sound financial choices.”
The website used data from the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) in 2014. A survey of 15-year-olds in the U.S. found that 18 percent did not learn “fundamental financial skills” that are often applied in everyday situations. These include creating a simple budget, comparison shopping and understanding an invoice.
The website wrote: “Financial illiteracy is more common among low-income individuals because they typically do not have wide access to accurate financial information. With such illiteracy, youth in low-income households can fall victim later as adults to scams, high-interest rate loans, and increasing debt.”
The teenager in the latest Reddit post wrote that she recently bought a new pair of jeans that cost around $150 Australian dollars ($99). When her mom found out about it, she allegedly “blew up” at the teenager.
According to the poster, the mom called her “selfish” and “insensitive,” adding that she’s “ashamed” that the poster is her child.
The teen wrote that her mom said she “should think about how it makes her feel when I buy an excessive amount of clothes, when she can barely afford to heat the house in the winter time.”
The poster wrote: “My family has been very poor my whole life. As my mum (44f) is a single mum who is studying full time, and looking after 5 children.”
The teen explained that she pays $300 Australian dollars ($200) fortnightly towards rent. She buys all of her “other necessities,” such as her phone bill and “hygiene products.”
The teenager bought the jeans recently because she was in “desperate need [of] a new pair, as I’ve outgrown my old ones.”
She added: “I have a slight shopping addiction (as lots of girls my age do) and at least once a week some sort [of] package/food order is showing up at our doorstep…I have a long list of mental health issues which I think contribute greatly to the addiction, but I’m trying to get it under control.”
The poster asked if she should “pay more rent and help more with my family of six’s bills, or is she [mom] insane for asking me to stop spending my hard earned money on things I want?”
Is the Teenager Being Selfish?
Andrew Latham, a certified financial planner in England, told Newsweek: “This is a complex issue that requires empathy and understanding from both parties. While the teenager has the right to spend their hard-earned money as they see fit, it is important to consider the financial struggles of the entire household—particularly when it’s a single-parent working full time with five children.”
Linda Whiteside is a licensed professional clinical counselor at the NuView Treatment Center in Los Angeles. She told Newsweek that the teen in the latest post is “not being selfish as she worked hard for the money she bought the jeans for.”
Whiteside said: “It’s her money, so she gets to do what she wants with it. Plus, she contributes to the household and does her job well.”
Derek Hagen is a certified financial therapist, behavior specialist and planner based in Minnesota. He told Newsweek that financial behaviors are driven by our beliefs about money, which are developed mostly during childhood.
“This teen describes herself as having a ‘slight shopping addiction,’ which is related to messages she received growing up. People may learn to associate spending with an escape or stress relief. These beliefs make up her money story,” Hagen said.
The poster may believe “she deserves to spend money that she earned on things that she wants,” which is “a reasonable belief.”
However, “her mom has her own financial beliefs that she developed in her own childhood,” added Hagen. “The teen’s mom may believe that it’s extravagant to spend money on yourself or that money should be shared with family. That would be a reasonable belief, too.”
Her Spending Habit Is a Coping Mechanism That Needs Addressing
Whiteside said that, while the teen is not selfish, “she is not free of fault.”
The counselor added that the poster’s urge to spend money on herself is “her way of taking back the power she was deprived of as she grew up poor and may not have been provided for very well.”
Whiteside explained that her spending habit is “somewhat of a coping mechanism.” However, it needs to be “addressed at the root before it rears its ugly head,” and the shopping addiction needs to be “nipped in the bud.”
Whiteside said: “Her innocent purchase of a pair of high-quality jeans might progress to more and more expensive items if she’s not careful. She has to learn financial literacy and address her underlying trauma. This may be the driving force behind her spending habits.”
A stock image of a woman looking stressed with hands on her head, looking a bunch of documents scattered across a table. A post about a struggling single mom who accused her daughter of being “selfish” for buying a pair of expensive new jeans has sparked debate on Reddit. iStock / Getty Images Plus
Need More Open and Honest Communication
Hagen said that when we disagree about money, it’s more helpful to be compassionate and try to understand each other’s viewpoints, rather than resorting to name-calling. “Getting aggressive is more likely to lead to misunderstandings and less likely that they will be on the same page.”
The specifics of each situation matter, as do the personal values of each person involved, Hagen added. He explained that “it’s difficult to use absolutes like ‘should’ or ‘always’ in cases like these.”
Hagen asked: “Is it reasonable that someone is able to spend her own money that she earned in a way that is important to her? Yes. Is it reasonable that it can feel disrespectful to buy non-necessities when others are struggling? Yes. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.”
Latham added the mother could have also communicated her concerns in a more constructive manner. She should have worked with the teenager to find a solution that benefits the whole family.
“This situation underscores the importance of open and honest communication about finances within families and the need for parents to teach their children about budgeting and financial responsibility,” Latham said.
‘Financial Literacy Will Elevate You’
Several users on Reddit sided with the teenager in the latest post, advising her about “financial literacy.”
In a comment with over 26,000 upvotes, user Quellecrist wrote: “Your money could be spent more wisely, but your urge to splurge is understandable since you grew up poor. My best advice to anyone who did not grow up with good financial role models is to educate yourself on financial literacy…”
Brynne42 posted: “Financial literacy will elevate you, and your family. Working for money is not enough, you want to make income while you aren’t working. Start now, invest safely, and retire early!”
Newsweek has contacted the original poster via the Reddit messaging system.
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