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Computer games versus cosmetics: how teenagers spend

Cherry Reynard
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Cherry Reynard

By the age of 13, girls are spending £1.70 a week on cosmetics, compared to just 10p for boys, but boys spend 10x as much on computer games.

This accounts for much of the higher weekly spending among teenage girls over teenage boys. Prior to their teens, ages 7-9, boys are the big spenders with an average weekly spend of £8.50, compared to £7.50 for girls.

Girls overtake boys between 10 and 12 and this trend accelerates in the 13 to 15 age group.

The Office for National Statistics figures also showed that teenagers spent less than they used to. Today’s teenage girls spend £20.20 a week, compared with £21.50 a week in 2002/04, while boys’ spending dropped from £19.30 to £17.30 over the same period.

However, although clothes, shoes and cosmetics account for most of the difference between spending, girls also spend double the amount on books across all age groups, while boys spent more than 10 times as much as girls on computer games and software.

A survey in January last year found that the gender pay gap starts early, with boys receiving 20% more pocket money than girls. The research by Childwise showed girls are also allowed less financial independence than boys.

The gap was particularly acute between the ages of 11 and 16, with boys receiving an average weekly income of £17.80 while girls of the same age received just £12.50.

Jane Goodland, Old Mutual Wealth responsible business director, said: “Kids spend their money on fizzy drinks, fast-food, clothes and make-up – no surprise if you’re a parent. What is interesting is that the average 15 year old is spending around £1300 a year, or £25 a week. In other words, our young people are spending adult sums of money on consumer goods. Spending and budgeting is an important part of learning about money, and it is right that teenagers have some choice and autonomy in this respect. But, in a few years they will be confronted with the full financial responsibility of adulthood and this means not only budgeting what they’re spending but also saving, paying taxes, managing bills and so on.

“Research shows financial behaviours are developed at a young age. It is difficult to learn new financial habits in adulthood, and recent data shows 85% of young people wish they’d been taught more about money at school. As well as tracking children’s spending, we should be looking at how they are saving and what attitudes and behaviours they are developing toward money. That would help build a clearer picture of how young people feel about money so that we can better educate them to manage their finances as adults.”