About smart shopping

Smart shopping is a key part of budgeting and money management.

You can help your child learn this skill by:

  • talking with your child about your consumer values and shopping choices
  • being a smart shopping role model when you’re planning your purchases
  • being a smart shopping role model when you’re at the shops.

Playing shops gives children a chance to experiment with prices, choices, money and change. This all helps when the time comes to make decisions using real money. So if you see your child setting up a ‘shop’, why not check out what’s for sale? You could take turns being the shopkeeper so your child gets to practise buying as well as selling.

Talking about consumer values and shopping choices

As part of your daily life with your child, you can talk about your values and how these influence your shopping choices.

You could tell your child why you’re prepared to pay more for something that’s important to you – for example, free-range eggs or softer toilet paper. Or why you prefer to buy the cheapest product – for example, so there’s more money left over for other things the family needs.

When you’re talking with your child, you could also talk about how your family budget influences your choices. This can help your child understand why 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 child about how it got there.

Planning purchases: role-modelling tips

Planning your purchases can help you resist marketing and advertising pressure, both for everyday shopping and expensive purchases. These tips can help you be a planning role model for your child:

  • Do some research before you shop. Check out products online to show your child that you need information before you buy something.
  • Shop around with your child. Whether you’re looking in catalogues, shopping online or shopping at a shopping centre, this can teach your child to compare prices and value.
  • Talk with your child about how advertising can influence shopping decisions.
  • 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.
  • Set a spending limit. At the shops, buy less so you stick to the limit, or shop around so that you get what you need with the money you have to spend.

At the shops: role-modelling tips

When you’re at the shops, you can show your child how to keep price, value and budget in mind. These tips can help:

  • If you have a list and a spending limit, stick to them. If your child can read, you could give him the list and he can help you stick to it. And if your child can add up, he could help you keep to your spending limit.
  • Talk with your child about what you’re buying and why. For example, ‘I’m choosing this brand of crackers because we get two packets for the same price as one packet in the other brand’.
  • If you’re not sure, read the label and pause before buying. Is this the product that you want? If it’s an expensive purchase, you might also like to ask the salesperson to show you how the product works, or check what’s inside the box.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. This helps your child learn about not giving into pressure from 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.
  • For bigger purchases like electronics or furniture, you might be able to negotiate a good price. Often all you have to do is ask. It’s a good skill for children and grown-ups to have.

An everyday activity like shopping can be a great way to help your child learn. Looking at signs and labels and talking about prices can help your child build literacy and numeracy skills. And understanding food choices can help your child learn about healthy eating.

Letting your child help with smart shopping

Your child is more likely to learn about smart shopping if she’s active and interested. So it can help to give your child a job to do. For example, she could:

  • help you write the shopping list or remember something you’ve run out of
  • look for signs for specials on items that are on your shopping list – their bright colours often make them easy for your child to spot even if she can’t read
  • choose the best fruit and vegetables
  • pay for items in cash and check the change if she’s old enough.

Your child is more likely to enjoy shopping if you can plan to do it when he isn’t tired, hungry or overexcited and when the shops aren’t too busy.

‘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.