Parents have long understood the power of going shopping without their kids in tow. Why? We spend more and on things we never ever intended when they are with us. Why again? It’s because of “influence” spending – when kids ask (beg) their parents or guardians to spend their money for something the child tells us they really, really want. Kids are groomed to spend by what they are seeing in ads on TV, social media and in game apps.

Marketers know this and are keenly aware of our kids’ ability to “influence” us as parents.   So they target kids from a very young age. Everybody is game to teach our kids to spend” – not so much to save, donate and invest. We are a short-term thinking society, and our kids are hard to say “no” to when they say they want something.

Use shopping as a teachable moment

Before you head to the store, let kids know that you have a list. (This means you really will need to make a list – smart strategy to keep you from overspending, too.) Give them a piece of the list to look out for to distract them from being bored. Let them know that you have enough money to get what is on the list. If they see something they want that is not on the list, have that conversation. What should we give up on the list to cover the cost of something not on the list? Ask them if what they are asking for is a need or a want. Have the “needs before wants” conversation.

Popular vs. usual brands

If your child is asking for a popular brand that you think is overpriced, have that conversation. Compare and contrast cost and ingredients. Show them how marketing can turn their heads and cost them money. Do the math and add up the difference between a brand you purchase on sale or normally versus a new, popular brand.

It is moments like this that help both the parent and the child slow down and reflect. And this helps everyone from being “influenced” into spending above their means.

I did this with my kids. I am not saying it was a perfect process, but it helped teach them how to be aware of what they were spending – and why.

Have you faced “influence spending” with your kids? How did you handle it?

Here are some additional strategies I recommended in this “A Seat At the Kids Table” podcast segment with Sandy Waters.  Add a comment if you can relate.

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Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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