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Most financial experts agree that the best way to teach kids to be a smart shopper is to actually let them TRY it.  They need to learn from their own successes and failures.  Since one of your biggest recurring expenses is your grocery budget, this is a great place to start.

Do you realize our teen is going to be doing their own shopping for their own family in just a few years?  That’s a scary thought if you haven’t taught them to be smart about shopping.  NOW is the time to start teaching them.

And if you think about it, if you help them to become a smart shopper, you could be saving them thousands of dollars.  I so wish my own Mom had passed this knowledge onto me.  But being a smart shopper was never a skill she possessed.  So I had to teach myself through trial and error.

The incentive for your son or daughter is that if they do well, they get to use some of that money for things they want.  You might choose to let them keep all of it, or maybe just split it with them.  Plus, they know this is an important skill they need.

Your teens will be buying their own groceries soon. You need to teach them these lessons right away.

  • You really need to hit the prices as close as you can.  Maybe only do 15-20 items at first, rather than a whole list.   If you aim too high, they will think it is a piece of cake.  If you aim too low and they might get discouraged at not having a very big incentive.  Though it might be a great learning experience to have the embarrassment of putting things back.  Such are the realities of shopping with cash.
  • I suggest that you go with your teen on the first trip.  Give them a few pointers, such as how to select fruits and vegetables, safe handling of meat products, etc.  Show them how to calculate and compare prices, but let them make most of the actual decisions.
  • Be prepared to show a little flexibility. They most likely will have a completely different style of shopping than you do.  Or may want to use different stores than you do. You may end up eating some mushy vegetables or bruised apples.  Or you might hear a few gripes from your husband if they switch the family to generic TP. Tell him to just grin and bear it.  Be sure to compliment your kids on the good choices they do make.

{Sidebar: I wrote a post a while back called the Fast Food Challenge where I shared that young adults from 18 to 25 spent about 49% more on fast food than other age groups.  Yikes!  These kids are literally eating their disposable income on junk food and luxuries.  It’s cutting them short on paying bills, saving for a house, or building their savings.}

Now this might sound a little scary.  But I am suggesting that you throw your teen in the deep end a little bit.  You turn them loose in the store with a list, some money (cash is best), and a calculator.  Some women really freak out about this because they control the grocery budget with an iron fist.  But these are YOUR children and they NEED to learn these skills.  Ya gotta let ’em try even if it costs you a bit extra for the first few trips.

This may test your shopping skills a bit because you have to estimate the costs pretty tight to your list.  Keep in mind that you are figuring the costs for a “regular” person who isn’t doing any coupons, price matching, or cost cutting.  Not what it would cost for an experienced shopper like you to buy these things.

The beauty of this program is that it gives them the opportunity to make a few fairly harmless mistakes.  They will learn this lesson in a powerful and hands-on way.

They’ll learn that meat marked “reduced for quick sale” doesn’t always work out well.  They’ll learn that generic canned vegetables and cereal don’t taste the same but are tolerable.  And they’ll understand why you get mad when they blow through a $4.00 box of cereal.

Your teen will be buying groceries very soon.  They need to learn how to be a smart shopper and soon!

Because they have such a good incentive, they’ll have a vested interest in being a smart shopper and making good choices. They’ll learn how to make good decisions about food.  Maybe they’ll gain an appreciation of how much work their mother has gone through keep food on the table for them all these years. Like the commercial says – some things really are priceless.

Here are a few pointers that might help you avoid some problems. I suggest you do this for several weeks.  It takes a while to learn these lessons and both you and teens need to make a commitment to it.

Hearing your appreciation and positive comments are an important part of the program.  This will make them feel like they are making a valuable contribution to the family. They are.  And it will be heavenly to sit in the car and read a magazine while your little minions do the shopping? Hey, Moms need all the breaks they can get!


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5 Comments on Teach Your Teen to be a Smart Shopper

  1. I love trying new things to teach my kids about money. I am planning on handing over the reigns to my 10 year old next year… in the mean time she loves to plan meals and go grocery shopping. I think it is a great idea to have her do some of the budgeting for the meals she makes the family. Stopping over from SITS.

  2. Great Post and Tips! I’m in the midst of this lesson with my 17 year old and at times I wonder where he thinks money comes from…LOL We definitely need to try some of these tips…

  3. Good points here. The idea of sending my teens to the grocery store with money for the week scares me, but I think you’re right, it’s important to be done. So I will give it a try once my oldest starts officially driving (he is taking his time). My middle child is quite good at finding bargains with her clothes shopping, since she is spending her own money, but with food, I don’t think she pays as much attention. She is more concerned with what’s healthy than being price conscious. I guess on the good side…she spends no money on fast food. Thanks for sharing this — it was a great reminder for me! It’ll be a great exercise to get them ready for the “real world.”

  4. This is a great post. My two oldest are 9 and 7 and I am trying to teach them to save. One is doing great and has a goal of 200, he’s at about 85 and the oldest wants to buy candy in the grocery store line…This is a great idea for when they get older!

  5. Oh wow! The thought of turning my son loose on the grocery store with money gives me a major panic attack! LOL I can’t believe that Fast food fact. That’s crazy!

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