Last Call: Teens aren’t spending enough money. Are you?

Marnie Shure
·2 mins read
Two girls with shopping bags on a city street
Two girls with shopping bags on a city street

This week, CNBC reported on a new survey that revealed teenagers are spending less money than they have in two decades, buying less food and attending fewer events due to—well, you know perfectly well why. “Taking Stock with Teens,” a biannual report from investment firm Piper Sandler, surveyed 9,800 teenage consumers across the country and found that while they’re still devoting the same proportion of their spending money to food (about 20%), the amount of money spent has gone down. That makes sense, since the nationwide economic downturn affects teens as much as anyone else.

This survey has been conducted for 40 years, and it has shown that teenage spending in all categories peaked in the year 2006. Back then, $197 was the yearly average spent on handbags. Designer handbags! Bought by teenagers! (Flashes of the Dooney & Bourke logo dance in my memory as I read that statistic.)

Categories in which spending has declined in 2020 are all the ones you might expect: handbags, concerts, footwear, clothing (though the amount spent on secondhand clothing has increased). But the fact that teens are spending less on food came as somewhat of a surprise, if only because fast food is a cheap and comforting diversion when times are tough. Maybe removing the social element of it—crowding into a corner booth at a Steak ’n Shake to gossip about all the teens at the adjacent tables, for example—gives teenagers less of a reason to seek out french fries and Frostys in the first place.

It’s not just teens, either; all of our spending habits during quarantine have changed in some way. Maybe your jigsaw puzzle splurging has skyrocketed (guilty) while your allotment for jeans has plummeted (also guilty). We all have interesting takeaways when looking at our 2020 finances. Are there any that you’d be willing to share with the class?