Teens’ spending habits revealed

RACQ’s Cash IQ program reveals teenagers’ spending habits and attitudes towards money.

Data from RACQ’s financial wellness program Cash IQ has revealed some valuable insights into the ways teenagers view money.

Launched in 2018, the Cash IQ program has been taught to more than 6000 students and includes two presentations, Cut the Cord and The Money Whisperer.

The Money Whisperer has been designed for Year 11 students and explores their current financial behaviours, what it means to be a conscious spender and the role their ‘inner voice’ (the Money Whisperer) plays and their relationship with it.

Cut the Cord enables Year 12 students to explore the complex interrelationships, links and intertwined entities of financial control, personal relationships, goals and the impact their role has on their own happiness.

As part of the Cash IQ program, students are asked questions about their spending habits and views on money, with their answers recorded on audience response keypads and graphed on-screen in real time.

Results from 2018 showed 43% of Queensland students would split the cost of purchasing their first car with their parents, while 39% said they would foot the bill themselves.

Only 13% said they would rely entirely on the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ to purchase their first car.

RACQ Education Coaching and Development Specialist Melissa Johnson said a tactic taught to students to help them save money was the “Will it matter?” test. 

“It’s a thinking strategy in which you ask yourself ‘Will the item or experience I am about to purchase matter to me in five minutes, months or years from now?’,” Ms Johnson said. 

“It puts the purchase into a bigger context and allows you to not miss out on life-changing experiences like moving out, buying a car or travelling for lots of little purchases.


“We have had students turn around in sessions, amazed at how much they’ve spent on fast food and say ‘Mate, that’s why you don’t have a car, you have literally eaten your car’.”


A majority of students (58%) questioned said they would ask their mates for money when purchasing fuel. 

“This was far more prevalent in teens who lived in regional areas of Queensland,” Ms Johnson said. 

“Regionally, students were 10% more likely to ask for fuel money off their mates, while metro students were twice as likely to ask their parents to contribute.

“It’s not surprising, as regionally they’re travelling longer distances, have less access to public transport and observationally are far keener to be independent.”

Ms Johnson said the research showed both genders made conscious financial decisions at school, but global research showed females made fewer financially responsible decisions after graduating. 

“There are real societal expectations put on females with how they look – the makeup, the tan, the shoes and the clothes – that can’t be seen again as opposed to males,” she said. 

“Shopping also isn’t a regular male bonding activity, whereas females will have a day out just dedicated to shopping.

“External research shows that males are more impulsive shoppers and are far less likely to open-up and talk about money issues.”

Ms Johnson said her advice to teenagers concerned about their spending habits was to adopt a strategy to change their money environment.

“Spending money isn’t something to fear – we all do it,” she said. 

“But spending unconsciously when you haven’t thought about the effects can lead you into murky territory.

“If you want something different, you have to do something different.

“Set up multiple accounts, sleep on it, do something that makes it easier for your brain to make those decisions.

“Be empowered to do something. You have the power.”

Strategies to improve your money environment:

  • Sleep on it – Take yourself away from the situation and think on it. The more money you plan on spending, the more time you should take. 
  • Will it matter – Ask yourself, will the item I am about to purchase matter to me in five minutes, months or years from now?
  • Bucketeering – Portion your money and set up multiple accounts with automatic transfers and have play money set aside. When the play account is empty, wait until you’re paid again. 

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person’s particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.