Children can become savvy shoppers when they learn from the world’s best role model – YOU! To raise a smart shopper, there are things that you can do before, during and even after a shopping trip to model money saving habits.
Let the children help to unpack the items that are unbreakable and that they can manage easily. During the time spent unpacking, review what purchases were made. Discuss which items fall in the “needs” category and which are in the “wants“ category. It feels great to be able to get both, but some shopping trips can only cover the needs category. This fact of life can be discussed with children, in a non threatening way. For example, running out of marshmallows may not have the same effect on the family as running out of toilet paper. The latter is not a glamorous or fun purchase, but going without it is worse. Young children generally enjoy talking about bodily functions and will get a kick out of classifying this item the family “needs” category.
The children can also talk about the fun things that they would like to have, but do not need. If they are having a hard time differentiating a want from a need – play a reversing game. Take the example of the toilet paper (a need) and the marshmallows (a want). Imagine trying to fulfill a need with a want – using the marshmallow instead of the toilet paper when nature calls. At some point we learn to enjoy having the things that we need, and emotionally cross the line of becoming attached to wants. Yet, we become money savvy when we can apply our own judgement and discipline to make wise choices. Developing the judgement to know the difference between a want and a need is a life skill. Try to help children learn this early in life and it will serve them well.
To avoid throwing out waste and spoilage, move the almost used up items to the front of the shelf. Produce and refrigerated food departments do this on a regular basis to avoid having food go bad before it sold. You can do the same thing at home. Move the existing inventory to the font of the shelf and place the newer items just a bit out of sight. They are out of sight and out of mind. This will counter the natural inclination to reach for the new container of milk, peanut butter and tube of toothpaste. They won’t reach for it if they don’t see it. Speaking of toothpaste, there are other items that children can be taught to “use” before opening up the new one. This can turn into a game – let me see you use the last drop. This helps children learn to get the most for your dollar and use what you already have at home.
Children can learn a type of reverse psychology by getting enjoyment out of using something to the fullest. Using money wisely is not just about the fun of spending money for something new. It is also about enjoying the value of your purchases. One way that we value our money is by using existing resources before spending more.
If the kids are helping you to stock the shelves at home, they can open the jar and peek inside to guess how much is left, and how long it will last before the new one has to be opened, then show you when they have used the last drop. See who can remember when it was purchased, how long it lasted, and how long the next one could last. This thought cycle can be applied to so many items that are purchased over their lifetimes – food, clothing, cars, homes – you name it!
When it comes to teaching children about money, the little things really do add up.