“How About YOU Buy the Groceries This Week!”

The pandemic has thrown families everywhere a real curveball to say the least. But social distancing doesn’t only present challenges. For example, a primary benefit of all the extra together-time, is the opportunity to talk with your children about money. If you only do this for 10 minutes a night for one week, your family will be able to exit the pandemic with money-smarter kids.

You don’t need to be an expert, or download an App. You only have to take some of the time you are already spending together – and make sure that your children are in possession of some simple facts. We promise, this can’t help but help them have a greater respect for your family’s hard-earned income. Do you have Grade School kids at home with you right now? At dinner tonight, why not discuss involving them in some of your household’s smaller financial decisions?

Children aren’t thoughtless when they repeatedly ask their parents to buy them things, what they are – is inexperienced. And just like reading, or swimming or knitting, the surest path to becoming better at something – is to practice. But children rarely get the opportunity to practice spending money, particularly on unexciting but necessary household items. So why not brainstorm ways to get them involved in even small weekly shopping decisions? How about giving them the weekly fresh fruit budget to spend at the online grocery store – let them experience that a small container of raspberries costs as much as a big bag of apples.

Many children receive spending money in lieu of holiday or birthday presents – but spending money you have been given to buy things you want isn’t what we are talking about here. Yes, kids can experience scarcity and buyer’s remorse when they spend birthday or Bat Mitzvah money – but you want them to understand how your days are filled with all sorts of small, repetitive and even mundane decisions that add up to your monthly household budget. Most people enjoy shopping when it is done with money they’ve been given to celebrate a holiday or event. Similarly, few people relish spending hard-earned money on in-no-way-fun-but-nevertheless-useful items like vacuum-cleaner bags, or furnace filters.

The surest path to becoming better at something is to practice – but children typically only get to practice spending money that has been given to them to celebrate a birthday or holiday – which is not the same as being responsible for even small household financial decisions, like choosing apples over raspberries at the grocery store.

Do you need toilet tissue and laundry detergent this week? Children have no idea how much these “invisible to them” but pretty important items cost. So show them. Ask them to calculate the cost of every load of laundry, merely by dividing the price of a bottle of Tide by the number of loads it can wash. Explain that by the time you add in heating the water and dryer time, one load of laundry can easily add up $1.75 – if you can do your laundry at home and not in a laundry mat. Does $1.75 seem cheap? Well if there are 8 loads of laundry done every week in your home, that adds up to $728 a year – aka the cost of a new TV for the family room. If you have the patience for the antics that are sure to arise, ask them to calculate the cost of each trip to the water closet. Humour can be a terrific vehicle for learning.

We promise, even the smallest walk in your shoes with regards to how hard it is to actually spend each month’s pay in a way that meets the greatest number of family needs, will yield children with more respect for money. And right now, when you and your spouse are working overtime to balance distance learning and jobs, (or even searching for a new one) just might the perfect time for kids on the cusp of middle school to even take on making dinner. If you want to bring the exercise full circle, after they’ve spent all afternoon working to get a meal on the table, slump in your chair, poke at your plate with a fork and ask “what’s this?” Then wink, dig in and thank them for giving you a night off!

Hang onto hope everyone, let’s get through this thing, if nothing else, with money-smarter kids.

If you are interested in how children research the full value of a request or purchase (before they make it) at one of our in-classroom workshops, please click on the Green or Pink Buttons below. Of course, they can also do this at home!

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