Money doesn’t come with instructions. Neither do children. But you can raise them to use money wisely. One of the financial skills children can be taught is how to be a good shopper. This is a life skill which can be taught through a few simple techniques that you can pass along. The key concept behind raising a savvy shopper is that shopping is a process. There is a before, during, and after shopping, which is easy to teach children.
It almost doesn’t matter how old they are when you start because it takes consistency and patience to teach them the process, but it is well worth whatever effort it takes on your part. Imagine the time that you will be able to confidently send them to the store alone! Priceless. Or the day that they tell you they used their own money and how much they saved by shopping around. Perhaps even more importantly, since children like spending money, you will be teaching them a life skill, which is how to shop wisely.
Crazy as it sounds, you should have something to eat before you go shopping. This makes it easier to stick to your plan, even if you are not shopping for food! It just takes the edge off of your cravings, so that you are not tempted to indulge all of your senses while shopping. Being satisfied before shopping helps you to stick to you plan and your budget.
Another thing that you can do is to sit with your child and make of list of the things that you plan to buy. The age of the child doesn’t matter. You are modeling a process for the child, and she or he will absorb what it is that you are trying to communicate over time, so make your list. If it is grocery shopping, then a list of the household essentials comes first. Children can relate to the things that they see and use everyday and will enjoy filling in the blanks of what is needed. They can help you check whether or not it is time to buy milk, help you with menu planning by telling you what they would like to have for dinner, and if the family is running low on toilet paper and other essentials. Throw in a few wanted items, if these are in your budget and you were planning to buy these as well.
Once you have your list, ask your child to guess how much money is needed to buy the things on the list. You can “guesstimate” the total amount or try to calculate it on an item-by-item basis. This is to help your child to make the connection between the item and the cost of the item. It is not to scare him about how much money you have to shell out again. So, to keep things on a fun and upbeat basis, let him show off his brain power. It really doesn’t matter if he gets it wrong. Just keep him engaged by keeping the anxiety out their experience. The last thing any parent wants to do is to create shame in a child about spending money. Have the child write down the amount he thinks it will cost on the piece of paper so that you have a reference point for the amount that he thinks the family will spend. It is important to write it down so that the child will be more engaged in the experience and you won’t have to try to remember the guesstimate. This will also help the child to become accountable for their spending, and to learn how to stick to a budget. This simple step could prevent him from asking that all to familiar question, down the road, “Where did all that money go?”
About the author: Candi Sparks is the mother of two, holds the Series 6 and Series 63 investment licenses, is licensed by the Department of Insurance, and holds other certifications related to finances. She also is the author of the “Can I Have Some Money?” financial book series for children. She has helped individuals and families on the road to financial freedom through her books, workshops, newsletters and website for those born with a plastic spoon in their mouths, who want bigger and better. She is able to provide informative books and workshops in a way that is fun, creative and is a great way to introduce these concepts to kids and anyone else interested in money lessons.