Teach Kids About Money:
Shopping With Kids

Shopping with kids provides a wealth of opportunities to teach kids about money. It can also provide lots of chances for kids to get frustrated about why they can't have what they want. Right. Now.

teach kids about money

We've all been there. When I plan to talk to my kids about why they can't have exactly what they want at this instant, the little voice in my head has a very rational conversation with them. Unfortunately, I'm not always talking to a rational little person (or not so little) on the other end. The tantrums have diminished over the years, but there is still room for tears. They don't always appreciate the family budget we're trying to stick to although they usually know that's why we're not buying that candy or those Pokemon cards.

Here are some tips that I've learned over the years to help teach kids about money while shopping. If you have your own tip to share about shopping with kids, skip down and send it in.

  • Prepare yourself and the kids for the shopping. When my kids were younger, we'd talk about it in the car on the way to the store we were going to. The grocery store checkout meant begging for candy. Wal-Mart and Target were either small toys or Pokemon cards. It can be something as simple as "We are going to the grocery store for milk, Pop-Tarts, fruit and hamburger. We're not going to get any candy today because we have ice cream at home." It usually helped to have a reason why not. I have used ice cream, any holiday which comes with candy (and almost all do now) and cookies as my reasons. The goal is to try to take the asking out. If they still ask, I'd remind them of our car talk (and cross my fingers).
  • Stand by your family budget. There can be nothing more tempting than buying that darned package of M&M's to stop the nagging and potential crying. Aside from whether this is a good parenting strategy in general, it can make havoc with your total budget if you give in all the time. Fifty cents for M&M's is generally not a big deal to the budget although it can mean quite a bit if you are trying to teach kids about money. If you find yourself always giving in, that will add up faster than you might imagine. It can easily stop happening at the checkout and sneak into other parts of the store (that $2.99 "little toy"). It gets easier as you go along - partly because they don't ask as much when they know there is a budget.
  • Give them their own budget. Whether they have their own money generally (especially true for ones on an allowance) or whether you are giving them money from the overall budget, putting them in charge of buying (or not) their own treats can save alot of heartburn for everyone. This really works best with smaller kids. Try giving them $1 or less and helping them pick out something that they can afford. I've found, though, that this budget technique works on my older kids too. I apply to Halloween costumes, gifts they are buying for other kids and activities.
  • Introduce them to kid online shopping. Online shopping can be great way to teach kids about money for a number of reasons. It can give them a great way to comparison shop easily before making a purchase. It can also be a way to help them delay getting something immediately. Even something bought today is going to need to be delivered. And then they can get the thrill all over again when the package arrives.
  • Loosen up a little now and then. I'll be the first to admit that sometimes you just want shopping to be a bit of fun. There are impulse purchases I want just as the kids do. The best thing is to build a cushion into the budget for that type of stuff or create a separate category in the budget for it. As long as you don't go over what you plan in total, it's fine. Having a little fun when shopping with kids can be good for everyone.

These are some of my tips to teach kids about money when shopping. But what about you? I bet you have loads of tips (and stories to share). You can do that here...

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