Lessons in Back to School Shopping
August is the time when many families focus on buying all the things their child needs to go back to school. Why not flip the tables this year and teach your children a lesson in consumerism, budgeting and needs vs wants? One of the most important things we can do as a parent is to talk to children about money.
If it doesn’t come up in conversation naturally, try to bring it up. Children’s understanding of money varies by age level. Preschoolers watch as we drive through the bank, make purchasing decisions at the store, and pay at the register. Seize the moment to talk about what you’re doing.
- Teach them to count – it is the basis of all financial exchanges.
- Have age-appropriate conversations with older kids regarding spending decisions. Is it an item that is needed or just something we want?
- Talk about how your family earns income, and why you make the spending choices that you do.
- Discuss your household budget or spending plan.
- Keep calm and discuss money, it can be a volatile topic in some households.
Help your kids learn to make solid consumer decisions
Kids are at risk of believing commercials and ads and may not have the ability to make sound decisions without a parent's guidance. Consumer decisions may be small, like picking a breakfast cereal; or large, like choosing a career. Consumerism begins at a young age. Youth need to learn to become aware of outside influences and how it affects our spending decisions.
- Teach your child to think before buying.
- Preschoolers will respond to ads even though they can’t understand how they work.
- Elementary-age children can begin to understand that ads try to persuade people to do or buy something.
- Teens and young adults are often potential victims of hard-pressure sales tactics. Teach them that if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Help them to be critical of advertisements and sales pitches.
- Guide them in learning to make decisions based on facts not emotion.
Preschoolers can see that money is traded for goods and services.
Young children learn through play. Your preschool or early elementary child might enjoy setting up a pretend store. Take turns being the customer or salesperson. Use play money. Help your preschooler learn to make decisions by letting them choose from two options. Make sure both options are acceptable to you. For example, you might ask “Do you want toast or cereal for breakfast?”
Elementary-age children can plan for spending and saving. Teens can gather product information and comparison shop to find the best buy. Young adults may need you to point them in the right direction for finding the answers to complex financial decisions. All these examples demonstrate an active role that each parent needs to take to help their children learn the importance and value of money.
Begin early on to talk about needs versus wants.
The sooner children learn this lesson, the better. Needs are critical to survival, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Wants are not necessary for health or safety. They may add fun to life, but they are limitless. Unlimited wants can lead to overspending. A solid spending plan covers the family’s needs before putting money toward things family members want.
Put practice into action
Give your child a budget and take them to the store to choose their back to school supplies. Have a small note pad or calculator handy, so that as the child chooses items, they can see how it reduces the total amount of money they are allowed spend. Teens and young adults can do some comparison shopping online before going to the store to purchase the item. Teach teens to compare with at least 3 stores. This practice helps them to look for the best prices and options for the items they want to purchase.
Back to school shopping can be a fun and educational time for families to practice basic money management skills. You are never too young or old to learn shopping skills, spending priorities and how to make every dollar count.