Teens Cut Back to Smallest Budget in at Least 15 Years

Teenagers Estimate $2,150 in Annual Spending

Girl shopping on sofa - stock photo

JGI/Jamie Grill

U.S. teenagers are spending less money than at any time since at least 2005, cutting back on items like food and clothing amid a cautiousness about the pandemic economy, a new survey shows.

The 9,800 teens surveyed by Piper Sandler in August and September reported spending an average of $2,150 a year—the lowest amount since at least 2005, when the firm began using its current methodology for the twice-a-year survey. That’s a 5% decline from what teens reported six months earlier, and a 9% drop from a year earlier, the investment banking firm said this week.

The survey findings show that pandemic-related economic concerns haven’t escaped the youngest generation of consumers. Forty-eight percent of teens said the economy was getting worse, compared with 47% in the spring (when some people were surveyed once shutdowns had begun) and 32% in the fall of 2019. And 23% of teens indicated that COVID-19 had impacted their ability to find work.

Teens are being more frugal about clothing, among other things, with reported apparel spending falling 11% from the previous year to an average of $507. On the other hand, teens found more room in their budgets for video games and electronics. Some 63% said they expected to buy a next-generation gaming console. Both the Playstation 5 and the X-Box Series X are launching in November with price tags of about $500. 

Before the most recent results, the lowest estimated annual spending was $2,234, back in the fall of 2011, and the highest was $3,023, in the spring of 2006. 

The latest survey was conducted between Aug. 19 and Sept. 22, and the average participant was 15.8 years old. The previous survey was done between Feb. 17 and March 27.