How We Spend

Maya Huffaker

Ka-ching! Debit cards swipe. ApplePay beeps. Mulberry’s account numbers are shouted across the register. With all the ways to conveniently spend money, some students struggle to save what they have while others’ expenses are almost infinite.

Junior Annabel Castronovo says all of the money she spends comes from her parents and she usually does not spend any money. 

“If I get money for my birthday or Christmas, my parents just put it into my bank account,” she said. 

Annabel said she only asks her parents for money when she goes out with friends. 

“I don’t have an allowance or a debit card so I ask my parents anytime I want something,” she said. 

“I basically only ask them for money for a social event where it would be weird to not have any money.”

Annabel’s parents are entirely responsible for her spending. 

“My parents both grew up in poor households and taught me the importance of saving money and thinking about your future in the long term,” she said. 

“We have shared our financial experiences, including hardships. We have told them the lessons we’ve learned and our opinions on the importance of financial literacy,” said Annabel’s mother Linda Lu Castronovo. “But for day to day things we simply trust our children to be responsible and self regulate.”

Junior Milani Juarbe says she spends around $30 in a week. 

“I just think about whether I will regret [buying something] later,” Juarbe said. “I think food has so much more value than clothing so I mostly spend my money on food.” 

She does not have an allowance and gets most of her money from babysitting. Juarbe uses cash for her spending. She spends the most when she is out with friends. 

“[My parents] don’t want me to spend my money, they would rather I save it and they know if I had my own debit card I would probably spend it. But with cash, I can see how much I have, know how much I have spent, and watch it go down rather than just numbers on a screen,” she said. “My parents and I have a deal where they will help me pay for college but if there’s things that I want rather than need I should pay for them myself.”

Juarbe will ask her parents for money if the item is a necessity or if it is very expensive. 

“I grew up not ever asking for anything ever. And so when I do ask for something, I do have that privilege of my parents most of the time saying yes, but if I do ask it is something expensive,” she said.

Although Juarbe has control over her spending, her parents provide guidance over what they think she should spend and what she should save. 

Senior Cole Garcia says he spends around $100 in a week. He gets most of his money from the singing group the Piedmont Troubadours. 

“My parents pay for things like food and anything that I need, ” Garcia said. He spends his money on items he wants such as a record player for around $150. 

Garcia does not have an allowance but there is no limit to how much he can ask for money from his parents. 

“Sometimes I think about what I don’t have or what I want, but sometimes it can just be a little thing on the spot so I will buy it,” he said. 

Junior Lindsay Kottle spends about $20 a week of her parents money. Kottle uses a credit card that is linked to her parents account. 

“I tend to spend money more on experiences like food than on things I would throw away,” she said.

Kottle’s parents provide guidance over her spending. 

“Generally, I make pretty reasonable purchases but sometimes if my mom doesn’t like something she’ll tell me not to buy it,” Kottle said, “If I am going out and buying food I let them know and if I order something online I will ask them.”

PHS parent Lael Melchert says her kids spend around $10-20 a week. 

“I don’t control [their spending] but I do provide some guidance and influence to have them think about whether this is something you are going to be committed to or if it is just for instant gratification,” she said.

Melchert’s kids currently spend with cash, but she plans for her 16- year- old to start using a debit card soon. 

“I think 16 or 17 is a good age to start learning about fiscal responsibility and managing it a couple years before you go out on your own so you can have some experience. But younger than 16 and they tend to lose things and not be very discerning,” she said.

Melchert said some of her children are more conscientious spenders than others.

 “Some of it has to do with personality and age. Some of it has to do with where we live because you’re influenced by the economic demographic which is not diverse here,” she said. 

Linda said her daughter is a conscientious spender. 

“[Annabel] asks for needed things and explains the need or desire for requested things. If she was asking for an excessive amount of money we would intervene, but we haven’t had to,” Linda said.

Linda and her husband spend around $200 to 300 dollars on their children per week. 

“When she goes to college she will have complete control of spending,” Linda said.

 “As our kids get older we naturally give them more autonomy and have them more involved in spending decisions.”

As of now, Annabel returns any leftover money given to her that she doesn’t spend to her parents and rarely asks for any in the first place. 

Melchert spends around $400 a week for each of her three children. She doesn’t think that they will become fully responsible for any of their spending until they are 26- years- old. 

“Life is a lot harder for you than it was for our generation to find a job, keep a job, and go to college. It might take you guys longer to go to college because you may have to work during it or go directly into grad school and health insurance won’t be figured out,” she said. 

“You’re inheriting a crap ton of problems that were not existing for us.”

Many students are beginning to learn financial responsibility by saving their own money. 

Along with her parents’ savings for her, Juarbe tries to save around 80 percent of her money. 

“I am saving for my future whether it’s a car or wanting to move out,” she said, “I see a lot of people see money as just paper with no value to it. I realize people get an allowance and people don’t always work for their money. I don’t have that same thing where I get an allowance or I get a car or I can just spend whatever.”

About half of the money Garcia makes he saves for college or invests in stocks.

For Annabel, any money that she makes immediately goes into a bank account to spend on college tuition. She has personally saved about six thousand dollars. 

In Melchert’s household, any money saved for college tuition is managed by the parents. They currently have around $250,000 for each child saved. The money Melchert’s children make they spend or save for their personal spending in the future. 

For some, tuition cost is a defining factor when considering where to apply to college.

 “My parents have saved up for me to go to college because it’s not a common thing for my family to go to college. It’s a really big deal for them. [Tuition cost] will matter, but hopefully it won’t have a huge impact and if it does it is something to work harder for,” she said. 

“My parents have always said ‘just work for the things you can’t get.’”

For others, they have enough money saved to not worry about tuition costs. 

“I’m lucky where money hopefully won’t be that big of an issue [when applying to college]. But I know for a lot of my friends and a lot of kids at the school, they’re really hoping for scholarships,” junior Sophia Kalamas said.

Kottle’s parents make sure to save money for their kids’ college tuition. 

“[Cost of tuition] would be a factor [when deciding where to apply] but there’s other things that are more important,” she said.

“In Piedmont, a lot of kids, not everyone, of course, but a lot of kids are lucky to have a very supporting family and not too many serious struggles with money. Piedmont is very lucky to be affluent and kids do act on that and act spoiled or whatever you want to call it. But yeah, I don’t know. You just have to remember everyone’s the same. Money isn’t a defining factor,” Kalamas said.

“I think people often take their privilege for granted but if you never learn responsibility you are going to find yourself dependent and basing your self worth on materialistic things, which is really shallow,” Annabel said. 

“You’re also not going to learn to value giving back to your community and the good things money can do. In our community, a lot of people don’t realize that because most of the wealth is generational wealth that kids our age didn’t do anything to earn.”

Annabel gives back to her community in a number of ways through community service, fostering animals, and donating to charities with her family. 

“I think having an excess of wealth gives you a responsibility to help those that don’t,” she said.

In 2019, Juarbe and her family moved to Piedmont from Oakland. 

“I’ve been in the place of having nothing. I’ve seen both sides where people see me as poor and I’ve seen the side of people seeing me as very wealthy,” Juarbe said. 

“I put myself in other people’s shoes instead of assuming things right away or bragging about things. Even if someone seems super wealthy, they could be poor. If they seem super poor, they could be wealthy.”

Juarbe’s family’s main source of income comes from her mother’s job as a nurse.

“I think we deserve [our economic status] only because my mom works really, really hard. And it didn’t come generationally. My mom always worked to be able to say she gave her kids the things she didn’t have,” Juarbe said.

Kottle’s parents are the main source of income for the family. 

“My parents worked for everything that we have so I don’t think I deserve it but I think they do,” Kottle said. 

Kalamas’ mother is an anesthesiologist and her father owns a transplant company. 

“Your parents’ money is very different from your money obviously when you’re a child. They still provide for me in a lot of ways,” Kalamas said. 

“[My parents’ money is] not something I worked for. It’s what they spent their lives working for, to achieve. And I’m just lucky that, you know, they can support me until I can support myself.”

While some hope to be wealthy in their future, others plan to prioritize other values.

“I think being happy is a lot more important than money. And some people think money is what makes you happy. But that’s not usually the case. For me, I’m just hoping that I can choose a career that I’m happy with. And I can go in every day, enjoying what I do, and enjoying my job. And hopefully, I work hard enough to get a job that can support myself and my family. I definitely don’t want to pick a career based on the amount of money I would make,” Kalamas said.

Like her mother, Juarbe hopes to study medicine in her future.

 “[Being wealthy in the future] is not that important to me only because I want to be comfortable. I don’t need to be super rich. I mean, I would love that, but it’s not something that I need. I want to live life to live life instead of living life for money. With money comes working and I have seen people work their whole lives just to be unhappy. And I just want to be happy,” Juarbe said.

Although ensuring wealth in her future is very important to Kottle, she also wishes to maintain her morals. 

“I want to make sure that in addition to being in a job where I can make money, I am in a job where I can stay true to my values of helping people and not sacrifice them for wealth,” she said.

Kottle said her family’s socioeconomic status has helped expand her worldviews.

 “I’ve been extremely lucky in that my parents have provided for me and allowed me to do activities that I can do and get exposure in other places like traveling, doing orchestra and playing on my lacrosse team,” she said.

Melchert said she tries to teach her kids the value of money through education. 

“I’ve done nothing other than express a need for education to support yourself and be self-reliant,” she said. 

“You can’t risk not going as far as you can in education to support yourself because you’re going to have to. I mean it’s scary.”

Melchert said she thinks her children are much more aware of their need to be self-reliant in the future than when she was growing up. 

“In my generation and where I grew up [our attitude toward money] was heavily influenced by maternalisitc, traditional, husband-wife relationships,” she said. 

“I grew up middle class and we always had this hope of being able to save, increase, and if we worked hard we would get what was coming to you, but it’s not quite that fair anymore. Poor stay poor and the rich get richer. It’s just a new problem that we never had to deal with 50 years ago.”