BY BERN MORLEY
With a family of five, I need to shop with both a list and a budget. If I don’t, I simply go off the rails. Without a list, I inevitably get side tracked and find that why yes, I really do need new pillows for the entire family or what’s that now, a 4 burner BBQ? Of COURSE we need one of those.
I can also put my impulse purchases down to being distracted by shopping with my children. Hands up those that take their children along with them on their weekly grocery shop? Now hands up those that don’t if they can possibly avoid it?
I’ll be honest, given the choice between taking my nearly 6 year old son to the local supermarket or putting my hand on a lit hotplate, I would probably opt for the terminal burn. Mainly because to him, grocery shopping is all about the amount of lollipops he can convince me to purchase and subsequently consume during a 45 minute shopping trip.
That was until I worked out that instead of our grocery shop being a chore we both dreaded, I just had to make it both fun and without him even knowing, educational.
The thing with kids is, because they often don’t actually have to really work to get the money to subsequently buy the food they eat, they have no understanding of money in real world terms. I wanted Jack to understand the value of saving in a spending context.
Firstly we sat down and we made our shopping lists. I asked him what he, as a six year old, thought he would need to get through his week. Here is his list:
A cricket bat
A mars bar
I then asked him which of the above items he simply wanted and which ones he would probably need to live. So we went through it again and highlighted the things he actually needed. He reluctantly agreed that the surfboard wasn’t necessary for survival.
We modified his list and estimated how much he would need to buy everything on it. We then made our way to the ATM. Now to a child, an ATM must look like a magic money machine. They watch us every day as we stick our card in a slot and in return, we are rewarded with money. FREE money to a naïve 6 year old.
This is why when I took the money out I explained to him that this machine was basically just my gigantic piggy bank. It held Mum and Dad’s savings and that I simply took it out when I needed to buy things like food. I explained to him that for every dollar I spend, I try to save a dollar. This isn’t of course always possible, but it’s what we were aiming for.
At this stage, Jack, my son thought this was (in his own words) the best day of his life. He put his allocated portion of the money in his wallet, grabbed a basket and was on a mission to get through his list. As we went through I discussed with him whether the bread he had chosen was the best value.
This made him look at the prices, always keeping in mind that the money he had left over at the end was his to keep. He soon got the hang of looking for value. After being able to put a line through everything on his list and with only 1 mini meltdown when he had a near miss with an oncoming trolley, he was ready to hit the checkout.
As he loaded all of his items on to the conveyor belt, his eye was caught by the demonic lollipops that are strategically kept at mini human eye level. He looked at me and I heard the words I hear every single week “Muuuum, can I have a lollipop?” This time though I answered him with “Well, if you’ve got money left over, it’s totally up to you. Remember though, if you save it all up, you can buy that cricket bat”. He looked at me and looked back at the lollipop and slowly put it back. He ended up $5.65 under budget.
The smile was to be bottled as he was handed his change by the cashier. This was the time I encouraged him to “maybe put the loose change in the charity box”.
“But why?” he asked. “Because it’s the right thing to do mate. We should always try and give others what we can afford” I told him. “Okay” and with that he slotted his 65 cents into the giant fake Labrador’s head.
Upon returning home I asked him if he’d enjoyed shopping that day to which he nodded furiously. So far, and this is week three, the novelty hasn’t worn off and he has saved $15. Who knew shopping with Mum could be so fun?
As Australia’s leading financial institution, the Commonwealth Bank is committed to helping young Australians develop strong money management skills and form sensible saving habits that can last a lifetime. Along with a range of savings accounts, including one designed especially for under-18s, and their well-established School Banking program, they offer a diverse range of initiatives designed to promote financial literacy. For more information visit their site.
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Have you passed on any important money lessons while shopping with your kids?