Let’s Do the Math


Photo I. Hanewicz

Costs for frequent study dates or visits to restaurants like Panera can add up quick.

Leana Pustam and Charlotte Rose

$1300: the price of a round-trip ticket to Europe, or the price of four Starbucks visits a week for an entire year, if one were to only spend $6.25 a visit.

While spending $25 a week on coffee, or $6.25 a visit, is certainly a fair amount of money, for teens, it is not all that outlandish. With a grande, or medium, drink in the Tampa Bay area averaging around $4 and a pastry $2 to $3, blowing five, ten, or even fifteen dollars during one coffee visit is realistic.

“I’ve gone through $50 gift cards in like three weeks,” said Joey Scointi (’17). Scionti buys the “Venti” size whenever he goes to Starbucks, the largest and most expensive size possible, about $5 a drink before tax for the Frappuccinos he enjoys.

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And as teens get older, the costs only continue to grow. With a car, inexpensive food spots like Starbucks and Panera are only a short car ride away.

On the corner of Gandy and Dale Mabry, a short 1.8 miles away from Robinson, lies the fast food lover’s haven of Chick-fil-A, Smoothie King, Chipotle and Jimmy John’s, all in one shopping plaza, all attracting teens with low prices and quick service.

“Having a car has made it so much easier for me to spend money because if I want something, I now can just go get it instead of having to ask my parents,” Emma Duffey (’17) said.

Those quick spots add up to some serious cash. According to a semi-annual report released by Piper Jaffray, teens spend 21% of their money on food. With the amount of birthday dinners, study dates at Starbucks, or Chick-fil-A cravings that teens have, their money disappears with an entrée here, and a Frappuccino there.

“I try not to buy materialistic things… like clothes… even though it’s really hard not to,” Destin Ramirez (’16) said. “Most of the time I don’t really have that kind of money, so I just spend what I have on food.”

Most of the time I don’t really have that kind of money, so I just spend what I have on food.”

— Destin Ramirez ('16)

When studying for tests and quizzes, it is easy for students to meet up at these fast food shops, most of which offer free WiFi and allow customers to stay studying until close. However, when students go to places like Starbucks, the temptation to buy surrounds them.

“I usually go [on study dates at] Panera or Hyde Park,” Ramirez said. “If I did that four times in a week, which I did one time, it would be like $40.”

Not all teens have a job, and for those who don’t, birthday money and gift cards quickly fail to cover the costs for the late-night math review or the afternoon Spanish study sessions, and asking parents to cover the rising costs is not always effective.

“My parents get mad sometimes if I spend too much money because they think I need more of an appreciation for money,” Duffey said.

And, while that grande iced white chocolate mocha sounds tempting, spending money consciously can be a smarter route. Sure, food is tasty, but the trip to Europe might last longer than that latte.