Teaching Your Kids How to Shop

Earning money, saving money, and giving money to charities are all important life-lessons to teach our children, but how about shopping for “wants”?

Teaching your kids how to shop

During holidays and birthdays, sometimes my kids receive gift cards to particular stores, so there’s no “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts”.  That money isn’t going to be saved, it’s going to be spent!

If you’re a parent, you may be able to relate to the fact that kids accumulate a GARGANTUAN amount of toys and trinkets nowadays, between parties at school, loot bags from birthday parties, or crafts and incentives from Children’s Church. And I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes children have similar behavior patterns to the people on that show “Hoarders”. EVERYTHING, in their mind, has the potential to be used for a certain craft project or pretend play game some day, and NOTHING is allowed to be sold, tossed, or donated, whether it’s an item that they truly ever will play with or not.

When it comes to spending their own money on “wants”, it is important to me to make sure my kids select something that they’ll REALLY use and appreciate. This isn’t just important for my own benefit…so I won’t find it abandoned under their bed a few days later when I’m vacuuming, while they’re dragging their feet around the house whining, “I’m bored!” But it’s important for their benefit, too. Learning shopping skills at an early age instills healthy spending values for when they’ve grown, and hopefully will help them have second-thoughts to impulse shopping and just accumulating “stuff” just to HAVE IT.

Unwanted Furby

Here is the approach we’ve been taking with spending money on “wants”.

First of all, I wait awhile after the kids have received their monetary gift. Most likely they’ve received it around a time that they’ve already been given other gifts, so I save the shopping trip for when the newness of those presents has worn. A rainy day, an extended school break, summer vacation, a fun little excursion after day of doing chores, I think are all good times to break up the monotony by bringing a new “want” into the house.

Gift Cards

Secondly, we have a brief discussion about wise-spending. The last time my daughters (ages 5 and 7) received a gift card, it was $10 a piece for Target (thanks, Aunt Marie!). When we pulled into the parking lot, we sat in the car and had a brief little chat going over what we call “The Five Finger Question Method”. The Five Finger Question Method is basically five questions we should ask ourselves to help us make a smart decision when it comes to our “want” purchase. We call it this name because designating a question per finger makes them easier to remember!

 The Five Finger Question Method

The Five Finger Question Method

  1. Is this similar to something I already own?
  2. Is this something I will still enjoy tomorrow?
  3. Is this something I will enjoy a week from now?
  4. Is this something I will enjoy a month from now?
  5. Is this something that feels cool, lights up, or makes cool sounds that I could possibly get the “I want this!” feelings out of my system by carrying it around the store for a bit?

    (like these…)

Some people may have the mindset, “They’re just kids! It’s just $10… let them be kids!”.  I fully believe in letting kids be kids and I don’t think this takes anything away from the fun of shopping, but truthfully, my kids seem to appreciate being taken seriously and having the discussion. The last time we were on our way home in the car, my seven-year old recalled a time when she went shopping with (name of a relative that is not me)  at  Barnes and Noble. They bought some Hello Kitty stuffed animals and never played with them much after the fact and she said at the time she had wanted them because they were cute, but realized they didn’t get much play-time because she had other stuffed Hello Kitties at home. “I was disappointed with my decision a few days later and was trying to find ways to save up more money to go back and buy something different.” she lamented.

The girls' purchases

In case anybody is curious, here were the girls’ final purchases that day. :)

Delia’s was a puppy purse because she doesn’t have any purses her size and she feels she’s grown up enough to have a big kid one now.

Charlotte’s purchase decision was a set of heart erasers that she selected because she has an eraser collection at home. She found these out of Target’s dollar section and decided to save the rest of her gift card for another day.

I personally try to use “The Five Finger Question Method” myself when I shop, although substituting the lengths of time for a tad longer (6 months etc), since as an adult, it’s easier to imagine what I’ll feel like by then.

Do you use any techniques to aid you or your children with impulse shopping?

Koosh ball photo credit to John Morgan

blog sig

18 Responses to Teaching Your Kids How to Shop

  1. Jennifer says:

    I do something similar when shopping for myself while shopping for clothes! I can’t wait to have Aidan actually start to do this too.

  2. Erlene says:

    I make my kids wait awhile after receiving GC & money too. Kids are impulsive and will often just buy the first neat thing they see. If I make my kids wait, they will change their minds multiple times before deciding what they really want to spend their money on. They will now even save up until they have enough to buy something.

  3. Good post! Thanks for linking up at TGIF BLOG Hop! Hope to see you again!


  4. Jenny says:

    Great ideas! I think it’s never too early to teach lessons about spending money responsibly. I love the Five Finger Method and will be trying it out on our next shopping trip!

  5. Nicky says:

    I need to start doing this with my kids. They have their own money (allowance) for their “I wants”. I find that when they earn it, they don’t spend at as quickly, but gift money is different. Thanks for these tips. I found you at the Wednesday Round Up.

  6. Angel says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!! My children are 4, 2 and halfbaked (due sept 2014). I think I will begin your method of shopping with them the next time they get some giftcards. We usually save them for BIG purchases but I never took into thought the amount of playtime they may get. I also have to point out that I died laughing over the Furby caption! Hilarious! Thank you for linking up to #throwbackthursdaylinkup

    • Celeste says:

      Hey, thanks for stopping by and hosting the linkup! I hope this method works out for you. If you try it out and tweak it to make it your own at all, I’d love to hear what you did :)

  7. Stephanie says:

    You’ve got me thinking. I feel like sometimes my kids have no idea of the amount of things they want – getting through a store can be tough. Good questions – I think I may try something similar.

  8. Museful Mom says:

    My almost 7 year old daughter has so much stuff that lately I’ve been telling her for every new item she wants to buy, she has to get rid of one old item. #ThrowbackThursdaylinkup

  9. Hello Celeste! We are listing your blog post as a favorite on Plum Crazy Life {the blog} this week for your link-up on last week’s #throwbackthursdaylinkup