For teenagers, a driver’s license is a ticket to independence. But that freedom often comes at a high price, considering the cost of gas, insurance and car maintenance. All teenagers can learn some important financial lessons by sharing the cost of the family car. Our Frugal $ense winner for January, Ellen Sattler, of Gainesville, Fla., has a special way of determining how much her teenage daughter should contribute to the costs of driving the family car.
Ellen Sattler, of Gainesville, Fla., won $100 for submitting the following tip:
Learning the responsibilities of car ownership
“My daughter and I share a car, and we had to work out how to share the gas bill. We reached an arrangement where she pays me each time she drives the car. After working out the average mileage of her round trips to and from her best friend’s house, to and from school, and to and from work, we came up with $2 per round trip. Now that she knows it will cost her each time she drives (and it is cash up front — nothing on credit), she is thinking twice about how necessary the trip is. She is a little more motivated to look into carpooling with friends going to the same destination. This is saving wear and tear on our car, saving some gas, and is helping her to learn the financial realities of driving a car.”
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Bankrate: What did your daughter think of this plan?
Ellen Sattler: My daughter was very understanding and cooperative and even helped me come up with the plan.
Bankrate: What other ways did you teach your children about living on a tight budget?
Ellen Sattler: I was always very realistic. When we went food shopping, they were each allowed one “extra” for the week. If they wanted to buy some new flavor of Fruit Roll-Ups at Publix (grocery store), then they would have to put something else back, something else extra that they wanted to buy. And I would make them choose between treats. I don’t feel that they were deprived, but they had to prioritize.
Bankrate: Did your children ever ask for things that were extravagant?
Ellen Sattler: One year my son had bought himself a truck, working many hours at Publix. He wanted his big Christmas gift to be Flowmaster exhaust pipes, and they were over $200. I said OK, but you have to understand that that’s all you’ll get, you’re getting nothing else on Christmas. He was fine with that, and he understood that was his choice.
Bankrate: How are your children doing now that they are approaching adulthood?
Ellen Sattler: My son is married and a Black Hawk pilot in Afghanistan. He got a four-year ROTC scholarship to a military academy and then went right to flight school. He is doing well and loves what he’s doing. My daughter is a junior in high school and is already looking at applying for scholarships so she can go to the University of Florida. Both my children are aware that I chose a less stressful job so that I could be home more with them in place of a higher income. They’re just good kids.