Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shopping Alarms About Kids & Money: A Grocery Store Lesson

An alarm went off when my friend Yael recently paid for her groceries. It was a basic transaction. She paid for the food with a debit card and requested cash back.

However, when her pre-school son watched the exchange of plastic for food and cash, a siren sounded. "Mommy," he shouted. "You won a prize." Alarmed, Yael decided it was time to teach him more about money.

Nationwide, other parents are finding gaps in their children's financial education. For instance, according to a recent T. Rowe Price survey, nearly 60 percent of parents feel as if they should be doing more to school their children about finances. Here are a few lesson plans:

Child labor and allowances: My school-age children get a boost when they earn money from household chores, baby-sitting or lemonade stands, and it's not just about the cash. Earning and managing a few dollars improves their common sense and self-esteem. Such lessons can begin with toddlers, with small chores and rewards.

Shopping trips: Going to the grocery store with children typically leads to higher food bills. But the short-term detour around sugar cereals and other treats can create long-lasting "teachable moments" about unit-pricing, marketing gimmicks and nutrition.

New age tools: The Internet has a wealth of finance games for kids. My daughter, for example, has spent hours at and, which offer imaginary financial systems in which children earn salaries, build homes and make virtual purchases. The money is not real, but the lessons are valuable. Other sites include: and (from the Treasury Department).

Old school tools: A game of Monopoly can last for hours with lessons about saving, spending and investing. Over that board game, my kids have become savvy about the value of budgets and delayed gratification. It's not just about paper money or color-coded blocks of real estate.


Anonymous said...

Being cognizant of the pervasiveness of plastic in our society and the impact on a child's perception on finances led my wife and I to do some transactions strictly in cash -- even if it is not convenient. Grocery shopping, entertainment (eating out) and clothes shopping are all categories where we use the "envelope system" so our kids see us spending CASH. When our kids are old enough, the next thing will be taking our church tithe off of auto-debit and switching to a check...

Hetty4 said...

Good post. We do a lot of the things you mentioned. All four of our children (from age 3 to age 15) have savings accounts. I pay allowance by electronic transfer into their savings account. Makes it far more difficult for them to spend, and, when they do, it's a thought out purchase.

vilkri said...

Very good post for parents like me. I will sure check out some of the sites I did not know about. Apparently children copy their parents also in the way parents handle their finances. Not really a shocker, is it?