Dollar stores offer many everyday household, business and automotive goods, as well as toys and entertainment products, at very low cost. Although these stores can lack a huge selection and sometimes put steep markups on some items, they provide a decent chance for you to approach multiple financial areas with your kid.
What You Can Teach
One of the biggest lessons kids can learn at a dollar store is how to inspect items for quality. Some items you’ll find at dollar stores, such as glassware or educational flashcards, are quite good and can compete with items you’ll find in any regular department or online store. Others, however, are subpar, such as non-alkaline batteries or electrical devices with weak wiring. With the items being inexpensive, it’s okay initially for you and your child to buy a few things to put them through test runs if that helps him understand what to look for and why. The ultimate goal is to have your child identify both potential trouble spots and strengths in the products right in the store.
Related to the idea of quality is the idea of name brands. Kids are still very emotionally based in their purchase decisions. They’ll lean very heavily to the products they’re already familiar with, simply because they can predict to some degree how those items will make them feel. They are not always aware that off- or store-brand versions of the goods they like are equal to or even better than the name-brand products they already know. Although dollar stores do carry some name-brand items, they also have plenty of generic ones, letting your child experiment with different manufacturers.
As your child explores the quality of products in the store, he also can learn about functionality versus show. For example, maybe the plastic piggybank he buys there isn’t the most attractive thing in the world, but it will hold his coins and bills just as well as a more expensive, elaborately-painted ceramic one would. Get your child in the habit of asking “Will this product do the job?” at the dollar store and he’ll make more frugal choices at other locations, too, selecting items without unnecessary bells and whistles.
One risk that dollar stores have with kids (okay, with anybody) is that it’s so easy to get sucked into the “it’s only a dollar” mentality. Your child can end up tossing more items than he needs in his basket or cart, simply because he doesn’t realize how much all those little charges can add up fast. Alternately, they can end up buying on impulse. Here, two good objectives with your child should be to teach him the importance of setting a spending limit and adding up the cost of items as he goes. Have your child ask himself if he is buying because he really will use the product, or because he’s just attracted to the concept of getting the item at a cheap rate. It’s not a bargain to buy something that doesn’t end up serving a purpose!
Another good financial lesson kids can learn with dollar stores is quantity planning. It’s very easy for your child to buy 10 bags of candy there, for example, but how much is he really going to get through without making himself sick or before it expires? In the same way, your budding artist might not need to buy 20 tubs of purple glitter all at once. Ask your child what his plan is for anything he wants to buy in bulk. Even if he has a good plan, ask where he plans to store what he buys.
Dollar stores are not always the best place for your child to shop, depending on the quality and function of what he needs or wants, but they can be excellent venues for expanding his financial know how. You can touch on elements such as comparison shopping and brand loyalty, functionality, buying the appropriate quantity and keeping track of how fast things are adding up. The inexpensive nature of the dollar store items also allows you to teach and give him some freedom without putting too much money at risk. You can adjust when and what to introduce in these stores based on your child’s level of development.