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Teens cope with less cash in downturn

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Bill Radke: Teenagers account for a total of $125 billion of retail sales per year. So what if they suddenly got less materialistic? It would be another blow to this economy. What would it mean to the teenagers? Here’s reporter Asha Richardson from Youth Radio.

ASHA RICHARDSON: I’ve never had $5,000 a year to spend at the mall, but that’s the average amount teens spend per year on retail, or at least it was. A new study from Piper Jaffray says teen spending is down 14 percent this year. My friend Rose Powell and I know all too well about cutting back.

Rose Powell: Now we definitely go, ‘oh we should go do this.’ And then the first question is always like, how much does that cost?

Rose and I used to go to movies all the time.

Powell: And like now, like we go ‘hey like who’s house are we going to, to sit around at and talk to each other?’

We’re definitely not shopping for new outfits these days, and we’re not alone. Clothing is one of the hardest hit categories — taking a 22 percent plunge. And that’s visible at my school. I don’t hear anyone bragging about their brand name jeans anymore.

Powell: There’s totally like kind of a stigma now for being like ‘oh I have hella money I just buy whatever I want.’ Cause you’re like ‘oh look at that rich kid over there who like is not economizing ooh.’

Other students don’t have the option of economizing, like 17-year-old Derek Williams. After his mom went on disability and his older brother got laid off, hanging out with friends became extremely difficult.

Derek Williams: My friends know my situation so they know sometimes that I don’t have money, and they want me to go out with them so they’ll…

So they’ll lend him the money, which makes Derek feel like he’s got to treat his friends like Wells Fargo.

Williams: The way I think about it is if, like, they the bank, so I took out this amount of money from them so I’m in debt and I pay it back.

For most teenagers, having a social life is an essential part of our identity, and sometimes it requires money. But teens like me are finding ways around this. Now I shop at thrift stores instead of department stores, and I even split $5 foot longs with my friends.

But I think this recession has prepared me for the future. I’m learning to budget and save money, skills some people have trouble understanding well into adulthood.

In Oakland, Calif., I’m Asha Richardson for Marketplace.

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