Smart Spending for the Teens

smart spendingSmart Spending
A Young Consumer’s Guide

I am totally one of those librarians who loves talking about financial literacy. Teens, particularly, really need help managing the realities of debt, spending, credit, etc. In 1989, I probably would have bought this for a library collection.

Lots of good discussion about fraud and spending. Now a days I bet we would have a hard time understanding some of the vocabulary such as money orders, paper checkbooks, taking advantage of the float between deposits and checks (I was quite the expert in the 1980s), etc.

The one scam that was around during my teen days were the mail order record clubs. The ads touted a huge number of albums for something like a single penny. The trick was you had to opt out before the club sent you all the crappy selections. (Read more about these clubs here, here and here. These articles are kind of old, but entertaining.)  I would guess that a good percentage of my fellow teens indulged in this questionable scheme.

Spend wisely, kids.



rackets con games


  1. The process of filing a complaint with a business is so different now, too–it’s hard to imagine anyone writing a formal letter of complaint like the one shown in the book.

    OMG, I joined both Columbia House & BMG record clubs multiple times during my high school & college years. I never had any trouble with them, though. I only ever got 1 unwanted album (Dexy’s Midnight Runners, ha) and never had a problem returning the little opt-out postcards on time.

    1. I joined at least one record club and had a good experience. A friend of my ex, though, really worked a scam on them: he would join under a fake name, and accept the initial packages. But when the subsequent packages and bills arrived, he’d mark “Return to Sender — No One by This Name at This Address”.

  2. When I wanted to develop an LP collection at my library but had a shoestring budget the Columbia Record Club was very useful. I just had to remember to cancel as soon as the commitment was fulfilled. I recall reading about a husband and wife who gamed the system with Book of the Month Club — one would get the four-books-for-$1, then get the bonus for referring a new member (the spouse) who would get four-books-for-$1, then fill the commitment and quit, etc., etc.

    1. The club’s regular prices & shipping/handling were definitely inflated, but I never felt like I was hugely ripped off or anything. They usually only made you buy 3 records in one year at regular price, and I feel like I still ended up at least getting a few records for “free” in the end, after doing all the math.

  3. Oh yes, I most certainly did indulge! My dad made them go away. I didn’t have a clue. Those lists of albums were soooo tempting….

  4. Money orders are still a thing. Certain places will only take them or a cashier’s check, and the deceptive subscription swindle sounds familiar only with clothing instead of recorded music. Trying to pay the float is a guaranteed disaster now, so that has changed.

    1. I saw a guy buying a money order at the post office just yesterday. Although maybe just being in the post office nowadays makes me a dinosaur anyway?

      I’m actually kind of shocked that this book apparently recommends the float time thing to teens as something to take advantage of. Even back in the 80s, it wasn’t precise enough that you could count on it. I remember a friend of my mom’s was forever bouncing checks attempting to use the float time to her advantage.

        1. That could be!! I was basing my comment on Mary’s remarks, but I might have jumped to conclusions!

        1. Kiting checks is writing checks from an account in one bank to an account in another, and then back again to constantly “refresh” the float. Paying the float is writing a check when there isn’t money in the account at that instant, but should be by the time the person receiving the check takes it to their bank, their bank sends it to the clearing house, and they try and clear it. In a sense it is/was an unsanctioned loan generated as a byproduct of the technical and legal restrictions of the day. Check kiting is/was an attempt to push the closing of that “loan” ever further and obtain the value of the float permanently. My guess is that would be prosecuted as obtaining money under false pretenses.

  5. This book was in my middle school library and I loved it for some strange reason. I still love pointing out scams and swindles, so it was pretty effective! Although even in the nineties, I was baffled by the notion of CODs. …

  6. After having our online bill-paying accounts hacked four times in two years, we switched back to “obsolete” paper checks. We also pay in cash for all our day-to-day shopping, since every time a card is used at our local Home Depot, gas station, and grocery store, the number is instantly stolen.

  7. I’d weed the book for giving bad financial advice to teens. *glares at book for recommending taking advantage of floats*

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