When was the last time you tried to get your child engaged in thinking frugally? It isn’t just about saving pennies in the piggy bank anymore. Granted, you may have tender aged children that can’t cut coupons or do math problems in their head yet but if your kids are a little older, why not get them involved? If you have more than one child, how do you tap into their individuality regarding money?
I must admit, I do get that twinkle in my eye when my kids mention a good deal they’ve seen, check prices in stores and online or simply say, “I really want to buy that but I think I’ll wait until the price comes down.” Those are what I call, “stick with’em moments.” They are learning it isn’t all about instant gratification.
My five kids’ ages range from seven up to twenty so I naturally get different levels of responses based on their age. One thing they all seem to be on the same page about is when I get something for free. I’ll start off by saying, “If it’s free”…then they chime in together with their different pitched voices that sound like mangled harmony and exclaim in perfect time, “It’s for me!” We all have a good laugh but for that moment I got them engaged. However, because they’re all so different, I had to approach saving money from different ends of the spectrum for each of them. I had to figure out what got their attention.
Our fourth child is my black Friday, coupon deal hunting, partner-in-crime. One of my sons enjoys the food aspect of frugality. His interest is cooking and how to make meals stretch. My daughter is the smart shopper. Her approach is saving money on clothes and using coupons for all the girly essentials teenage girls need. My oldest son loves free samples and is ever watchful for a good deal. My youngest son gets a kick out of spotting coupons and asking how much money we saved.
There’s another aspect they all seem to grasp. If it’s their money, they’re a little less inclined to impulse shop. Funny, they don’t seem too fascinated with that idea when it’s my money! It must be a universal thing because I’ve heard this from countless parents over the years. That’s why we’ve encouraged our kids to earn their own money. When it’s money they’ve earned, a lot more thought comes into play.
When I was young, I never heard my parents discuss money, bills or anything related to money until my father was laid off. Shortly after, I began to work after school as a waitress and contributed to the family. At fifteen, I would give my tips to my mom to buy groceries and use my change to wash our clothes at the local laundry mat. It was then that I learned how to chip in, make my money stretch, put on my big girl pants and do what I needed to do. It forever changed my relationship with money. Even after times got better, I can still attribute that time of my life as the driving force to becoming a good steward of my money.
For the up and coming generation, they must be given skills to get by in the real world. Life isn’t always easy. We have to deal with bumps and hurdles all the time. Giving our children the tools they need in every aspect of life is our job. However, why should it take hard times to give our children these tools that will serve them well as adults? We as parents cannot let, be it random or planned, any chances for training our youngsters about frugality to slip through our fingers. Additionally, it will help create a strong character. Growing up with a healthy relationship with money, will instill confidence and self assurance when they’re adults and be people others will admire and respect.
It’s never too late for kids to drink in, (like the little sponges they are) your tips and tricks for frugal living. Be sure to meet them where they’re at and what is age appropriate.They might not be wired like you and it will take effort and creativity on your part. Embracing their interests and strengths can go a long way in engaging them.
Here are a few tips:
For younger children under 5:
• When shopping with children at the mall, be clear before you hit the store that you will only be looking at sales racks. Have them alert you when they see them. This is fun for younger children. However, they’ll get bored fast so don’t linger for two hours. If you stay too long, your child won’t have a good experience and everything you used to engage them just went out the window. Hit a couple of racks and get out of there.
• At the grocery store, have them keep their eyes open for the “blinkie” machine. These are the little machines you see on the isles that have a little red blinking light. That’s why their called “blinkies”. These can have terrific coupons in them that are free to shoppers. Kids love to hunt for these!
• Be organized and have a plan. Have your lists and coupons prepared before you leave. Small children have a shorter attention span and will get cranky waiting if you have to search for coupons or retracing your steps.
• Have them count out your coupons at the register. This is another fun way to help your little one with their counting skills.
• The three money jars. Set up three jars and mark them. One for savings, one for spending and one for giving. You child will be able to see with their own eyes what is happening to their money. Be sure to keep them out of reach of little ones as loose change can pose a choking hazard.
• Make it fun! It’s shopping, not rocket science. If other shoppers happen to walk by you while you and your child are singing about watermelons, (which I myself have done countless times) who cares? If you can make shopping fun while teaching, you’ve got it made in the shade!
For children ages 5 and up.
• Allow them to earn their own money. At around age 5, we gave our kids an allowance of one dollar for every chore they did, if they followed through daily for one week. They only earned $1 or $2 a week, but it was a start.
• Take them on a trip to the bank and open up a checking account in their name. They’ll enjoy seeing those savings add up.
• Use shopping as a math tool. This works great with school aged kids. Having them do math in their head is also terrific practice.
• Are they eager to burn a hole in their pocket the second they get a dollar. Take them to the store and have them read you the price out loud, then ask, “Do you have enough money for that?” This not only teaches that we can’t always buy what we want, but instills saving and paying with cash.
• If they do have the right amount for the purchase, keep a “think about it time” in play. It could be one day or one week. Taking time to mull over a purchase can be quite beneficial with decision making and can help thwart off buyers remorse. Perhaps you can find it cheaper elsewhere.
• While grocery shopping, have your child read the prices and weight of the product. Ask them which one is the better deal.
• If you use coupons, have them help cut them. At the store, ask them what the final cost of the item will be after you use your coupons.
• When you shop at them mall with older kids, ask them to tell you what the price would be after the store takes off, say 75% off an item.
• Talk about how much money you save when you shop. You’re excitement will be contagious!
These are a few tips and tricks I’ve used over the years. I hope they help and inspire you to get your child engaged in thinking frugally!
Kourtenay is the owner of girlswithcoupons.com. She lives in Topeka, Kansas with her husband Mike and five children, ages 7,13,15,17, and 21. Her mission is to help families save money in this challenging economy. From grocery shopping with coupons, printable coupon alerts, finding great deals and timely articles, she is determined to keep more money in your household budget.