Modern Americans live lives of speed and busy-ness. This can mean high productivity, but it also can translate into a dependence on convenience items. (Gas station coffee or granola bar, anyone?) Steering kids away from convenience in favor of frugality and independence puts them in a much better personal and financial position.
The Biggest Lesson
By far, the biggest lesson your kids need to learn regarding convenience items is that convenience does not necessarily translate to any increase in quality or amount. In fact, convenience items almost always are sold in smaller packages, and some manufacturers design their products to meet an immediate need rather than to last over time. Compare price labels with your child and then explain that convenience items usually are more expensive because you are buying service (e.g., someone chopping your carrots) so you can be more comfortable or have additional time.
Doing It Himself
Once your child understands how service, time and convenience goods all are related, the next step is to train your child to ask himself if he can provide the service himself. For instance, can he make himself a sandwich at home instead of buying a premade one from a fast food joint? Point out the areas where he has the capability of creating essentially the same item given the right supplies and time. Then have him do the math about how much he would save by creating the item himself. If you’re feeling particularly generous, match the savings. By doing this, you improve your child’s confidence and financial literacy.
The Health Issue
Sometimes convenience comes with a price tag that isn’t completely financial—convenience products also can endanger your child’s health. For example, convenience foods often contain additional additives or high amounts of salt and sugar. Explain to your child that even though convenience goods might be easy to get, they aren’t worth it in the long run because they don’t build the healthy body or provide the energy he needs. Show him that it can be much cheaper to get safer or tastier items from non-convenience vendors.
Saving Via Bulk
Generally speaking, when your child buys from a convenience vendor, he’ll receive less than if he bought from a bulk vendor. Trick your kid into going the cheaper route by physically showing her how much more she can buy away from the convenience store—kids love the idea of more of anything. Kids might pay more attention if you do this with their favorite candy, but you can use anything sold in bulk that your kids like.
A simple strategy that works for getting kids not to use convenience items too often is to have them make lists of what they want or need before you go out. The rule here is that when you do get to a store, convenience or otherwise, your child buys only what is on the list and isn’t distracted by other items he might see. Alternately, your kid can make a list of items he already has. Your child might make a list of items he packed for camping, for example, so that he doesn’t forget he already has toothpaste in his bag. Part of this strategy involves planning ahead—your child can help figure out when you’re going to shop and where to avoid convenience pricing.
Coupons and Deals
Work with your child to compare convenience store circulars, as well as to clip coupons from newspaper circulars or print them from websites. Then have him put his coupons in a container he can take with him when you go out. If you need to stop at a convenience store, he can save a little if he does have to buy something.
The Preset Cap
A final strategy against convenience is to give your child a preset cap on convenience purchases. You can either limit the exact items purchased or limit the amount spent. This teaches him that some convenience shopping is permissible if done with restraint. You even can tie this into budgeting and credit concepts.