About smart shopping
Smart shopping is a key part of money management for children.
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 or shopping online
- encouraging children to help with shopping activities and decisions.
Playing shops gives children a chance to experiment with prices, choices, money and change. This helps when they start making shopping decisions and 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 beliefs and 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 learn why budgeting is useful and understand why we can’t always have everything we want.
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 or in catalogues 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. Talk with your child about how sticking to a list helps you avoid impulse buys. This can also help you stick to a spending limit.
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 or a spending limit, stick to them. If your child can read, you could give them the list and they can help you stick to it. And if your child can add up, they 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 2 packets for the same price as one packet in the other brand’.
- Ask salespeople for information about products before buying them. You can also ask to see how the product works or check what’s inside the box. You could ask your child whether there’s anything they want to know about the product. And explain that you need information to make good decisions.
- 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 skills and numeracy skills. And understanding food choices can help your child learn about healthy eating.
Encouraging children to help with shopping
One of the best ways to help children learn smart shopping skills is to encourage them to help you with shopping activities. For example, your child could:
- help you write the shopping list or remember something you’ve run out of
- look for ‘special’ signs on items that are on your shopping list – their bright colours often make them easy for your child to spot even if they can’t read well
- choose the best fruit and vegetables and look at Use by dates on fresh products
- pay for items in cash and check the change if they’re old enough.
As your child gets older, you can encourage them to get involved in shopping decisions too. For example, your child could:
- help you decide whether to buy an item
- help you decide which brand to buy
- talk with you about how much they think a product should cost and why
- review shopping decisions with you – for example, whether a product has been good value for money.
Your child is likely to learn most from shopping activities when they’re active and interested. And if you can plan to shop when children aren’t tired, hungry or overexcited and the shops aren’t too busy, it’s likely to be a better experience for both of you.