Responsible, smart shopping is an important life skill. You can help your child by talking about where you choose to shop, the way you make shopping decisions, and the products you choose to buy.
Smart shopping basics
Your child learns about shopping by watching your shopping choices and behaviour. So one of the best ways to help your child learn how to shop responsibly is by modelling smart shopping yourself.
This can be as simple as talking to your child about what you’re buying and why. For example, ‘This big bag of apples is $4, but we only need 3 apples and they cost $2. That’s a better deal for us’.
You can also model shopping choices that reflect your family values. For example, if you prefer to buy organic vegies, you could talk to your child about why you’re happy to pay a bit more for them.
Budgeting is another important area of smart shopping that you can help your child with. Again you can do this by setting a limit if you’re out shopping with your child, or shopping around so that you get what you need with the money you have to spend.
These simple strategies can help your child learn important values and life skills, like how to live within a budget and how we can’t always have everything we want.
It can be hard for young children to understand the value of money if they never see it. If you take money out of an ATM, talk to your children about how it got there. Going shopping is a chance for you to teach your child about banks, debts and saving money, as well as how credit cards or electronic purchases work.
Smart shopping tips
As part of learning about smart shopping, you can help your child make sensible shopping choices. Here are some options for you to try when you’re shopping with your child.
Price, value and budget
- Shop around to compare prices and value: whether you’re shopping online or in a shopping centre, this can teach your child about different products, quality, guarantees, after-sales service and other added value items.
- Set a limit on how much you’re going to spend: this helps you teach your child about budgeting.
- Make a list of what you’re going to buy before you go shopping, and stick to it. This can help you avoid impulse buys that really add up.
- Negotiate a good price or deal for expensive items: often all you have to do is ask for a better price. It’s a good skill for children and grown-ups to have.
Marketing, advertising and pressure to buy
- Do some research before you shop: either check out the product online or ask a sales assistant before you commit to buying. Show your child that you need information before you buy something.
- Pause before buying: is this the product that you want? Read the label, ask the salesperson to show you how the product works, and check what’s inside the box.
- Don’t be afraid to say no: this helps your child learn about not being pressured into buying things by salespeople or special offers.
- Keep the receipt: let your child know that it’s OK to take something back if it’s faulty or parts are missing – but you need the receipt to do this.
- Talk to your child about how advertising works and influences shopping decisions. See our article on children and advertising for more information.
Personal consumer values
- Talk about how your personal values and experience affect your buying decisions. For example, you might pay more for a better quality or ethical clothing brand, a product with a longer warranty, or one that’s environmentally friendly.
- Talk about the difference between brand and generic items. Brand items often cost more, but you might sometimes prefer to buy them – you could explain why.
‘Can I have a lolly?’ ‘I want a ride!’ ‘Please, please, please!’ For more information on how to handle children’s requests for things when you’re out shopping, read our articles on pestering
and when your child asks for things
How to get the most out of smart shopping with your child
When your child helps you with the shopping, she gets a chance to learn smart shopping habits. You can make the most of this opportunity by shopping when your child isn’t tired, hungry or overexcited and when the shops aren’t too busy.
It also often helps to give your child a job to do. Here are some ideas to get your child involved:
- Pick items off the shelf and put them in the basket.
- Read labels on products and make choices about brands.
- Look for signs in shops for sales and specials.
- Pack shopping into bags.
- Choose fruit and vegetables.
- Pay for items in cash. Older children can learn from taking and checking the change.