Keeping the kids entertained while shopping no small chore. The beautiful thing is, shopping trips are a prime opportunity to teach your child about money. Applying some simple strategies can fight the boredom blues all while improving your youngster’s financial literacy.
The Comparison Game
Being frugal starts with comparing one product to another in regard to price, quantity and quality. This is largely a learned skill, so your kid needs practice comparing items in order to become money smart. For each item on your list, have your kid look at the cheapest, middle of the line and most expensive options. Look at features or ingredients with them and point out that cheaper store brands sometimes are virtually identical to their more expensive name brand counterparts. Talk about when it might be a good idea to pay a little more for better nutrition, design or functions.
Do the Math
Even though items such as food are extremely basic, they still factor into your regular budget and have to have a spending cap. Explain what the spending limit for the trip is before you even get out the door. When you get to the store, hand your kid a calculator (if needed), a pad of paper and a pencil. As you go shop, have him tally what you are buying so you don’t go over the spending limit. If you find that extras have found their way into the cart and are putting you over the limit, have your child put back some of the items you want but don’t absolutely need. Subtract these items from the tally. This will teach your child how to prioritize purchases in addition to keeping him from overspending. Your child also can do the math to help you find the lowest price per unit.
Coupons are an easy way to knock some significant costs off your shopping bill. Before you head to the store, let your child clip coupons or print them off the Internet. Encourage him to search for coupons you know you’ll use, such as one for your regular brand of toothpaste or detergent. Have him bring the coupons with him on the trip. As you locate items in the store for which coupons apply, check the amount you’ll save and then give your child that amount—this works well with littler kids, because they can stay occupied with counting up the physical money. You also can just wait until you have the receipt and then give him the savings once you get home. This trick gets your kids to see just how much coupons can affect a bill and is also a fantastic transition into topics such as employer retirement matching. Regardless of when you hand over the funds, work with your child toward a specific goal for the savings, such as a charity donation or purchasing the game he’s been wanting you to buy.
Make Your Child the List Master
One reason people often overspend on a shopping trip and get into money trouble is because they don’t make a list. Without the list, customers are more likely to let other unnecessary items slip into their bags. Let your child scour the local sales papers with you and go through your house prior to the trip to decide what you really need to buy. During the trip, put your child in charge of crossing off each item on the list.
Eliminate the “Just This” Game
When kids are shopping, a popular refrain is, “Can I have just this? Just this once?” To make the list lesson sink in, tell your child that if he wants something not on the list, he has to cover the cost. This will get your child to think ahead and bring his own money along so he doesn’t dip into yours. If you make it a rule that he also has to pay in cash, he’ll likely not spend as much if he does choose to throw in an extra purchase. To go a little further, get him to do the math about what percentage of his money he’s spending.