Price of luxury: struggling between finances and trends


The National Center for Education Statistics reports how most teenagers are spending their money-are they spending it wisely?

Ria Talukder, Co-Spotlight Editor

By the time students reach high school, they’ve mastered many skills, but many of them do not understand the ABCs of balancing their personal desires with financial responsibility.By the time students reach high school, they’ve mastered many skills, but many of them do not understand the ABCs of balancing their personal desires with financial responsibility.

“In [Lake Zurich], there is a definite stigma that people [should] have name brand clothing [and] cars,” Blake Rowell, junior, said. “There is a lot of pressure to keep up with [trends].”

Having nicer things, is something a lot of students, including her, care about. According to Rowell, when someone cannot afford luxury items or things that are the most up to date, there is added pressure as some students struggle with this financial capability.

“Not everyone can have nice things, even though we all want them,” Rowell said.

For some students, coming up empty when searching through their wallet is a common occurrence. According to Heidi Smith, senior who currently holds two jobs, working is the best way for a high schooler to provide for themselves.

“Having a job in high school lets me better prepare myself for my future,” Smith said. “I won’t always have my parents to help me, so I need to learn how to pay for things myself.”

To fund her expenses, Smith juggles a job at Culver’s and working concessions around town for events like Rock the Block. According to Smith, while she knows the expectation to be trendy is prevalent at the high school, being in charge of her own expenses has taught her how to be financially responsible instead of spending money to follow what is trending.

“Lots of parents just give their kids whatever they want,” Smith said. “I have to work for my money, [so] I don’t just go around spending it. When you sacrifice a [lot] of your time into working, you don’t throw away the reward for that work without really thinking about it.”

Working for her wants, Smith said, is a value her mother, Rhonda Smith, has instilled in her. Smith’s mom, a single mother of two teenage daughters, has taught Heidi and her sister that if they want to splurge, then they must be willing to pay half or all the price.

“Kids are expensive,” Smith’s mother said. “There’s the expenses of registration fees for school, clothes, a car, but then there’s the expense of [your kids] wanting to go out to places with their friends, or even small things like the school yearbook.”

All this adds up, according to Smith’s mother. To provide for her kids, she works overtime and sometimes even picks up a second job. In her opinion, the best way for Heidi to learn the value of a dollar is to take on her own responsibilities.

“Being a student at Lake Zurich, Heidi sees a lot of her friends with new cars and going on fancy vacations, and I’m not able to do that for her,” Smith’s mother said. “But [she] helps with all of her extra expenses. She will buy nice clothes for herself, but she’ll shop around for a sale. We’re actually going on a cruise for Christmas, and Heidi is paying her own way.”

Both agree saving their paychecks and working non-stop has given them the mindset best fit for the real world. According to Smith, unlike other students at the high school who drive costly cars and wear all the trendy clothes, she drives a car from ‘99 and does not get too wrapped up in what’s trending at school.

“It’s about not caring what other people have and just focusing on what you as an individual need,” Smith said.

On the contrary, Rowell argues sometimes having a job is not a possibility for a student to take on along with school work and other responsibilities.

“Having a job while also having four hours of homework or being in the musical isn’t a reality,” Rowell said. “Does that mean I still can’t have or want nicer things? I’d like to say no. It’s not that some people don’t want to work. Some can’t. Those people still deserve to get the nice things they desire.”

Because of Rowell’s personal experiences, she believes high schoolers should not feel ashamed to be slightly reliant on their parents for money, commenting on the fact that most parents are willing to help their kids out at this age.

“Being reliant on [parents] doesn’t mean you are spoiled as long as you understand how hard they work for their money,” Rowell said. “The most important thing is to be appreciative.”

Asking your parents to assist you in costly purchases, such as buying a new car, or paying for a school trip, are acceptable situations to splurge in Rowell’s eyes, as such purchases, albeit costly, are necessities for many students. Despite a difference of opinion over teens in the workforce, Smith and Rowell both agree many students, even the ones that have mastered the art of managing their money, want luxurious things.

“When I see someone in the parking lot driving a brand new Jeep, for example, there is a sense of jealousy and longing for something I don’t have,” Rowell said.

Ultimately, both Rowell and Smith believe saving your money is more helpful in the long run, no matter how much you might desire something.

“It’s nice to have up to date things, but in the end, it’s not the most important thing in the world,” Rowell said. “Your personality and who you are [are] much more important.”