Earning money, saving money, and giving money to charities are all important life-lessons to teach our children, but how about shopping for “wants”?
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.
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.
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
- Is this similar to something I already own?
- Is this something I will still enjoy tomorrow?
- Is this something I will enjoy a week from now?
- Is this something I will enjoy a month from now?
- 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?
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.
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?