Times are tough. A lot of people are feeling the pinch. And your family may be one of the many caught in the financial downturn. Along with thousands who have lost their jobs, maybe your mom or dad has been laid off. You may have had to cut back on after-school activities, summer camp and family vacations. And you might be worried about whether or not your family can afford to send you to college. Here are some smart ways to cope during financial crunchtime.
Talk to Your Parents
Money is a difficult subject for most parents to talk about with their children. Parents don’t want their children to worry unnecessarily about the family’s finances. But if they think that you’re mature enough to handle the truth, then they will be more willing to share the reality of their situation more openly, especially if you bring it up first.
What You Can Do
If one or both of your parents has lost a job and money is tight, then you may want to consider getting a part-time job, cutting back on your activities, helping out around the house, and applying for scholarships and financial aid.
- Get a Part-Time Job
Work Permit: If you’re between 14 and 18 years of age, you can apply for a work permit under the Fair Labor Act Standard (FLAS). Not all states require work permits (Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Wyoming and Tennessee don’t require them) and the age that they are issued varies from state to state. If you want to see the rules for your state, click here. You can usually get your work permit from your guidance counselor. The Department of Labor also has a teen resource page, “Youth Rules,” which provides useful information about teen employment.
- Social Security Card and IDs
Your parents should have signed you up for a Social Security number when you were born, but if you don’t have one or you think you lost yours, you can get a new or replacement card at your local Social Security office, which you can find here. Every time you apply for a job, you will need to give your nine-digit Social Security number so the Social Security Administration can track your earnings for tax purposes. In addition to your Social Security card, an employer may also ask for a student ID, driver’s license or passport.
- Cut Back on Activities
Many families have had to scale back significantly this year and are not able to send their kids to expensive summer camps or go on vacations. If that’s the situation you find your family faced with, see if there’s an inexpensive Parks and Recreation program or YMCA in your community that you could go to. You could volunteer to be a camp counselor in exchange for using the facilities. Or you could even make your own sports club by inviting your friends to your house or nearby park to play basketball, baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer, or whatever sport you like at no cost.
- Help Out Around the House
If your family used to have use a cleaning or yard service, but can’t afford to hire help anymore, then offer to help clean the house, mow the lawn, wash the car, do the laundry, vacuum, change the sheets, etc. Your parents will really appreciate whatever it is you can do to help around the house.
- Apply for Financial Aid
If you’re planning on going to college soon and haven’t looked into applying for financial aid or scholarship programs, talk to your guidance counselor for help. You can apply anytime after Jan. 1 and the deadline for sending in your application is June 30. You don’t need to be accepted by a university to apply, just when you actually receive the funds. You can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) and ask for a free copy of The Student Guide: Financial Aid from the US Department of Education. Your local library and high-school guidance counselor should have copies too. You can also go online to the FSAIC’s website here.
- Apply for Scholarships
There are literally billions of dollars worth of scholarships available to high school, college and post-graduate students every year, so do some research and check out some of the these websites that can guide you to the scholarships that are available:
Last reviewed Nov. 17, 2014