9 Money Tips: That I Learned from Teaching High School Students

Do you remember what you did with money back when you were in high school? 

For many people, it might be hard to remember what classes we even took in high school… let alone how we viewed, treated, and used our money-back during those days. 

Since I recently I started my 10th year of teaching, I decided I would write about 9  money tips I have learned from high schoolers.

But first…

Where do money habits start?

I feel like a Renaissance man sometimes (Writing about money and teaching history), but then again I do teach about the Renaissance. However, here is what I  know:

Most people develop money habits early, most of which come from their parents/environment.

Take a quick trip down memory lane, how did you view money as a little kid? 

When I was a little kid  I used a plastic Lego tray to organize my money. I separated the 1's from the 5's, and I even had the quarters sitting next to the dimes, nickles and pennies. 

And more often then not, I was more excited to  add to my collection then to take from it. When I wanted something my mom would say, “Do you have enough money?”

Quickly that want went away and at an early age the real value of money. But then things seemed to change….

As an adult, right around 22, there was a shift.

A shift from growing and saving to spending and… well honestly just spending.

So after writing about the 8 Sacrifices We Made to Pay Off $150,000 in Student Loans last week, I thought it would be cool to write about how high school students can teach us all some money tips.

For example, unless they are an authorized user on their parent's credit card, most high school kids use cash when it comes to spending money.

All this led me to one conclusion… there is lots we can learn still, even if we are not in high school anymore. 

9 Money Tips You Can Learn From a High School Student

Highschool Money TIps

1. Deal in Cash Only

This might sound crazy, but cut up the plastic and start using the Dave envelope system. As much as I think this doesn't really fix the main problem – financial discipline – it is a great start.

People who use plastic will spend 12-18% more than someone who uses cash. 

A high school student is not of age to borrow money unless it is cash from their friends, and therefore, for the most part, they must buy everything in cash.

Cash is one of the best teachers of money because our brains can't convince us to spend $20 if we only have $10 in our wallet.

See also, My 1st Credit Card Mistakes

2. Don't Lend Money

“Yo man you still owe me $10 from the last time we went to Chipotle.”

This I hear at least once a week and I laugh every-time. Because kids deal in cash, sometimes they lend money to their friends, that often times they will never see again.

Nowadays, apps like Venmo make it easy for college kids and even millennials to get their money to and from each other, but lending money at an early age usually teaches one hard lesson:

Don't lend money unless you are OK with never seeing it again.

I've lent adults money, and quite honestly, if you lend money, plan on never seeing it again (Everyone says they'll repay you, but just don't let it ruin personal relationships if for reason they don't).

3. Be Frugal

High school kids are stingy with their money. Playing back to #1, because they deal with cash they are typically frugal.

Throw in the fact they usually get $8 an hour or some are still on some sort of an allowance, high school students are stingy!

They treat every dollar like a breadcrumb instead of adults who sometimes live a life on credit. Do you analyze wants vs needs closely?

Will this purchase matter in 5 years to me?


4. Don't Waste Money on Eating Out

Now, this is where I see high school students spend most of their money. Take away teenagers eating out and the fast-food industry would collapse.

Kidding, but while high school students might be frugal, they are frugal so they can go out to eat with their friends 2-3x a week.

One thing I have learned by observing high school students… fast food is where they spend so much of their money.  So like I wish I could tell my high school students if you have financial goals, eat the homemade dinner!

5. Stay Away from Credit

A high school student can not get a credit card, unless they are 18. That being said, they typically are not financing everything they own.

If they have to save for a car, which is almost always used, they pay cash for their car. They don't rack up a ton of consumer debt and finance their life.

For one reason they can't. However, if you are someone making that climb to be deft free or maybe just looking to save more, start with #1 and avoid using credit so frequently.

6. Avoid Loans

Similar to #5, avoid loans at all costs. According to Fortune.com, Personal Loans have recently surged to a record $120 Billion high.

Throw in student loans, auto loans, and home loans and most people are 1 paycheck away from being in a sticky situation.

I get it, that will never happen to you. However, high school students can't take out a loan and while it keeps going back to #1, they only get what they can afford at that moment.

7. Hustle to Make Money

Aside from student loans, another reason I give college a hard time is because of these types of people:

I have my college degree so now I must get a job that is 40 hours a week that is my work capacity limit.

Yet, a highschooler will do just about anything to make $40.

See also, My little brother is an entrepreneur!

Rake some leaves, shovel some snow, or even walk some dogs – you name it! But, why is it that once people have a college degree they act like they are too good to go make an extra $100 a week?

Learn to hustle and use the extra money to pay down student loans or save.

8. You Are Not Busy

A high school student has all the time in the world, aside from maybe a college student.

They go to school 180 days for 7 hours. Tell me any profession that does that? 

With more free time in the world to do what they want, high school students live it up. Sports, clubs, activities, friends, you name it.

Want to know why most people over 22 don't workout 3-4x a week or do #7? They're too busy.

>> See: How to Lose The Busy Excuse

“Yeah but you don't understand, I am just too busy,” they say, but they have no clue they watched 12 hours of T.V. the week before.

When people complain they're too busy too make extra money or start a side hustle…. well….

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9. Live Freely!

I will end with this – do what you want and live freely… but to do that you must be financially secure.

I look at high school students and as long as they are not stressing about grades and college they pretty much live a carefree lifestyle.

Granted, it is easier to live freely when you are 16 vs. 26 (When you have more responsibilities), the carefree attitude is worth adopting. They seem to just have this spirit about them. 

That doesn't mean be irresponsible, it just means learn to let things go and have fun.

High school students are typically short term focused (Like what are they gonna do after school), but they get excited about small things, live every moment to it's fullest and they're always smiling.

However, after college around 23, we become “Adults” and our glory days are behind us. This common thought is just not true.

Instead, approach every day with a smile and positive attitude… and remember… think about money like a high school student. 

It will do you good. 

Q: What is the best lesson you remember from high school? Comment below.

Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $200,000 in student loans with his wife in less than four years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, helping others with their debt and recommend using Personal Capital to track your finances.