As most parents know, it’s typically much more efficient to do your shopping without your kids in tow. The reality, of course, is that there will be times when you have to go to stores with your children. Although this isn’t necessarily horribly convenient, it does provide a great opportunity to teach your child a great finance lesson—the benefits of creating a shopping list.
Focus and Budgeting
In general, when you go into a store without any kind of plan, kids respond mainly to whatever is around them. If you haven’t set clear rules for what will and will not be purchased, they see no problem with asking for Item A, B, C and right on through to Y, based on which one comes into their line of sight and captures their attention. One of the biggest benefits of having your child make a shopping list with you is that, when you get to the store, you can maintain some degree of focus. Instead of randomly looking at everything, the list gives your child something specific to seek out. If he asks for something outside of what is on the list, you can use the list as an “excuse” for refusing to buy, saying something like, “Well, let’s check the list. I don’t see that on here. If you’d really like that, we might be able to put it on our list for next time, or we can figure out how you can save for it.” With your child more focused on buying only what’s listed, he’ll encounter another benefit—the ability to stay within his budget.
Recall and Trip Efficiency
In addition to helping your child keep focus, a list is a great memory tool. It can ensure he gets everything he came to the store for. That, in turn, means your child won’t ask you to run back to the store for a forgotten item, saving time and transportation costs.
Foresight and Planning
Having your child make a list before you go out is also beneficial in that it teaches him to think ahead about his purchases. The ability to do this is critical for doing things like comparison shopping, couponing, and saving toward specific goals. It can also teach your child that there is a purpose behind buying that extends beyond feeling good in the moment—he has to look at how the item to be purchased will benefit him. This gets into the more advanced concept of opportunity cost.
When your child makes a list, he can take the time to think about whether he already has items that will serve his needs. If he wants to make some cookies, for instance, he can look in the cupboard and fridge and make a list of only the ingredients you don’t already have stocked. This eliminates waste, as he won’t overbuy items that might spoil, get lost, or get broken.
Additional Advantages and Uses
Don’t think that lists help just financial literacy. They can help with reading and penmanship, as well. Your child even can use his shopping lists to work on skills like alphabetizing or categorizing items into groups. For math, you can have him count the items on the list, or you can have him write down actual or estimated costs for each item and tally them up. For social studies and economics, talk about where items come from, how they are made, and what might influence their costs.