Train Kids to Be Smart Holiday Shoppers

The Christmas season presents a perfect learning moment if you want to show kids and teens that buying decisions should involve time to think, compare and evaluate.

You know, it’s called holiday shopping, not holiday spending, right? While spending comes naturally for most of us, you can use the Christmas gift season to teach even young family members to be smart when spending money.

Start grooming savvy shoppers with these 7 tips:

  1. Remember, It’s your thought that counts.

Yes, gifts cost money, but putting a little thought into what Aunt Kate likes means more than cruising down the aisles to snatch up the latest and greatest. In fact, your recipients might be more impressed that you focused on something special for them than if you spent a lot of money. So when kids have small sums for shopping, encourage mindful gift-buying. Make that money stretch farther!

2. Follow Santa’s lead: Make a list and check it twice.

Shopping with a list is more efficient, and keeps us on track…and on budget. Kids (and adults) might even go so far as organizing by the envelope system. Just label envelopes, one for each person you want to give a gift. Put the amount to spend in each envelope, and on the envelope write individual gift ideas, prices and places to purchase. Then, when purchased, place the receipt in the envelope. No fair adding more money to someone’s envelope!

3. P-L-A-N. Detective skills can prove rewarding.

Teach kids to plan a strategy – dig for coupons and ads to find discounts and the best prices for items. Holiday shopping (or any time) is a time to find discounts and sales. You don’t have to buy the first item you see, nor do you just look in one store. Actually, scouring the ads and planning the shopping trip can be half your fun together.

4. Speak up! Don’t by shy, be resourceful.

Newbie shoppers (and most kids are) eventually acquire negotiation skills. Help your kids learn to interact with clerks right from the start. For example, don’t be afraid to ask:

  • Is free gift wrap and/or boxes are available (saves you time and money)?
  • Will the retailer will match the price of a competitor’s ad?
  • Do I qualify for a “gift with a purchase” or store promotion?
  • Will discount(s) and coupon(s) be applied?
  • Can the salesperson check the chain’s other stores or website if the item is out of stock? (Items can often be located and shipped free.)
  • Will the retailer give a raincheck or substitute for an out-of-stock item?

5. Haste makes waste, especially last-minute shopping.

Yes, it’s frustrating when shelves are empty, crowds are rambunctious, and time is running out. Even so, don’t try to cram in your own shopping errands so it becomes a miserable experience or feels like a burden when your kids take time to deliberate about what to purchase. Shopping is a great learning moment – but decision making involves time to think and evaluate!

6. Score T-O-P points: Timeliness, Originality, Presentation.

You don’t get many kudos if you give several friends the same thing, are late in giving or don’t wrap the gifts. Remember your gifts are like little messenger angels proclaiming your heartfelt appreciation or love. So often, it’s the little things or extra touches that count – and they don’t cost much.

7. And speaking of originality…Custom-made can be awesome.

Nothing says “I love you” or “I value you” as much as spending time to make something for another person. Some gift ideas kids can do:

Gifts in a jar: Find a simple soup or cookie/bar recipe, buy the dry ingredients, and layer them attractively in a glass jar. You can decorate the container (or not) and attach the recipe directions.

For plant lovers: Get a flower pot and plant an herb, flower bulb, or seeds. Or fill the pot with gardening delights – seeds, bulbs, fertilizer stakes, gloves, small tools, labels.

Foodie fav: Find interesting recipes or special family ones. Make a personalized recipe book.

Photo op: Collect special photos and arrange in an album or collage frame.

Makin’ memories: Start or make a journal of “Memories with My Friend.”

Yum, yum: Make home-baked goods – breads, candies, muffins, cheese ball, chocolate-covered pretzels, spice nuts, popcorn balls.

Small treasures: Find a small basket/tin/box and fill with someone’s favs – teas, coffees, candy, lotions, sticky notes & pens, hair accessories, baseball cards, stickers.

Grandmas love ’em: Crafty kids can create bead jewelry, weave a simple scarf or potholder, stencil bookmarks or book covers, paint bags or memory boxes (not recommended for the craft-challenged or very young).

Decorate: For a personal touch, make your own wrapping paper and/or cards to go with a purchased gift.

From the old comes new: Think recycling for a second life – dip candles by melting old crayons, collect pine cones and make a wreath, make a potpourri to fill a bag, repaint a flower pot or picture frame.

Getting crafty isn’t your thing?

  • Create a coupon book, redeemable for babysitting, yard work, kitchen clean-up hours, and hugs.
  • Customize a calendar using a template (great way to remember birthdays too).
  • If you play piano or another instrument well, make a CD – what grandparent won’t treasure that?!
  • Make a tape recording as you read favorite storybooks – great to give younger siblings.

Maybe you have other ideas?



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