You know that old saying, “do as I say, not as I do”? Well, kids learn from what you do. And they are always watching. Shop without a list and they’ll learn that when you go into a store it’s to impulse shop. Now that’s not what you want, is it?
It’s just as easy for your kids to learn bad habits as good ones. If you never leave a store without buying something, your kids will quickly learn that their purpose in going into a store is to find something to buy. You can’t then turn around and say, “Do you think we always have to buy something?” because the answer is, “Yes”. That’s what you’ve taught them.
So how do you get to complete your To Do Lists without turning your child into a consumption machine? Explain what you’re doing: “Mommy needs to get a birthday present for Uncle Mike today, so that’s why I’m heading into this store. What do you think we should get him?”
Don’t sabotage the lessons you’re trying to teach your children about money. If you tell kids to save their money, but you don’t save and talk about how you’re making your money grow, they won’t really get the lesson. If you tell kids to be smart shoppers, then go out and blow money you never meant to spend, kids will learn the wrong lesson. If you don’t walk the talk, your kids will know it.
Stop shopping as entertainment. It may be tempting to bundle the kids up and head to the mall where you can walk and talk and eat and shop and stay warm or cool, depending on the season, while ensuring a good night’s sleep because you’ve worn out your kidlets. Don’t. When heading to the mall is considered a family outing, the message you send your kids is that shopping is a form of entertainment. Head to the gym, the park, or an indoor playground instead. Pack your own snacks and it’ll cost less than a day at the mall.
Always shop with a list. This is a great way to demonstrate that you have a plan to buy something, and you are only buying things in your plan. When you’re heading out the door, suggest that your kids make a list of things they think they will be buying with their money. If they see something that really grabs their attention, suggest that they put it on their list and you’ll return the following week to get it. Yes, it’s a little extra work, but it’s your job as a parent to do the extra work that teaches the important lessons, like the one about not impulse shopping.
Tell your kids to ask you why you’re buying something. Encourage them by offering up to 25¢ per shopping trip for asking you a question about shopping. What you want to do is open the conversation and start educating them on your thinking as you shop. And you want them to get into the habit of asking you about things they don’t understand.
Always compare prices. You can turn this into a math game with your kids. When you’re comparing prices, you’re looking for ways to save so you have to add and subtract. Have kids keep track of how much you’ve saved and add it to your “savings” jar at home, perhaps for your vacation fund or for a special weekend of treats for the kids.
Don’t buy lottery tickets. If you’re a saver and have a plan for the future, you don’t need the lottery. When you buy lottery tickets you’re telling your kids you’re hoping for a windfall; you’re not in charge of building your own long-term savings. It’s the wrong message to send.
When you use a credit card to shop, let your kids watch you pay the bill when it comes in. The idea that plastic has no consequence is one belief that has stuck with a lot of young’uns. They see parents whip out their credit cards to pay for things but they never see how the credit card gets paid. You want to tie the shopping “behavior” to the payment “consequence” so kids can clearly see the connection.
Ultimately, kids will learn far more from what you do than from what you say. If you want to deliver a consistent message and be the role model that sets them on the right course, clean up your act!