Now he's more careful when weighing his purchases, deciding between wants and needs. "I think about: I want these tennis shoes, but I need deodorant and a toothbrush. What's more important?"
And he's gotten better at budgeting now, stretching his dollars so he could set aside two paychecks for a Florida trip in May, he said.
Parents also should not bail out a teen who has frittered away a paycheck and now comes up short for nonessentials, experts said.
"A really good lesson would be: `You know, you're only paid bi-weekly. You will have to learn to budget so it stretches,' " said Dara Duguay, executive director of Jump$tart in Washington. "If parents bail them out, they will be 40 years old and calling the parents, `Can you help with the mortgage?'"
Some experts say parents should come to the rescue -- but only once -- if teens get over their heads in credit-card debt that threatens their credit history. Prospective employers sometimes look at credit reports and a negative one can prevent a teen from getting a job later on, experts said.
Seven percent of high school students, age 16 to 18, have a major credit card in their name and 6 percent carry a gas or department store card, according to a survey last year by the American Savings Educational Council. Of those, 22 percent tend to carry balances.
Before teens get a card, they should demonstrate that they are responsible with money, experts said. When they do get plastic, it should carry a low credit line, or be a secured or debit card that limits how much teens can buy based on the amount in their bank accounts.
Last, parents themselves must set a good example. "As much as teens may think they are independent-thinking, they're following what we do as parents," said Sanders. "They are following our examples and gravitating toward our negative habits."
You can reach Eileen Ambrose at 410-332-6984 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org