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Give Your Children the Gift of Thrift

Teresa Higginbotham


It seems like today, kids are barraged with sales ads in everything they see. No wonder my four year old runs up to me and repeats the commercial she just heard word for word and then emphatically demands we buy whatever it is. I can still distinctly remember when my oldest child went through this stage. Children seem to connect that sometimes people get those toys they see on TV and now they must have it. Unfortunately, Mom and Dad do not have the means or even the desire to buy every two-bit piece of plastic put up for sale on the cartoon channels.

Here are a few ways to teach your children about money.

1. Don't hide the costs of things from your kids. A 0 Nintendo 64 is just a toy to a 4-year-old. He may not understand that it costs significantly more than the video games or even an action figure. You may want to do something to help him visualize the dollar amounts and also teach him the simple lesson of less and more. Here are two different ways to do this.

Establish an "I Want That" List. Write down the name of every toy your child asks for. Put next to that a green x for every dollar the toy costs. You will be creating a bar graph for your child to see how many more or fewer dollars one item is than another.
Action Figure xxxxxxx
Video Game xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

You can also make a toy book for your child. Cut out a picture of the toy and paste it onto a piece of notebook paper. Write the cost of each toy at the bottom of each page. Get out the monopoly money and show the child how many of the dollars each toy takes. With a young child it might be a good idea to stick with the one-dollar bills because the concept of a or may confuse them.

2. Educate your child in discount shopping. All to be had is not found at THE MALL. Pick a product with your child that can be found almost anywhere (like sunglasses). Now there are all different ranges of quality in sunglasses, but there are an awful lot of them that are middle of the road. Choose the quality you would find at the drugstore.

Have your child keep a record of the prices you find on sunglasses in these locations:
grocery store
convenience store
Dollar store
yard sale
discount department store (Walmart, Kmart, etc.)

Your child will be amazed at the price variation, especially if he or she cannot see a big difference in the quality of the product.

3. Set up a home savings account for your child. I have seen some really neat banks that set up your child's savings in three categories: Save, Spend, Donate. They take 10% out first and put that in their "Donate" section. They then half the rest. This is a great way to practice math and develop the habit of giving.

4. Create a "Happy Meal" at home. If your child is Happy Meal crazy, talk to him about the cost of eating as opposed to staying home. Together put together a hamburger or chicken nugget dinner and then do a cost comparison.

Happy Meal At Home
Hamburger for family of four .50 for 1 1lb
Buns .79
French-Fries .00 bag of frozen
Cheese slices .10 per slice
Drinks from 2-liter soda bottle .50
Total Cost: .09

Happy Meal at Fast Food Restaurant
2 Kids Meals @.00
2 Grownup Meals@.00 (This is an approximation, we often spend more)
Total Cost: .00

Take the extra five dollars and show your child how it could be two meals for your family or put toward something else. Teaching a child about money prepares them for adulthood and helps them to create good spending habits that will last a lifetime.

Penny Pinching Techniques Don't Spend Big Bucks on your Grocery BillThe Value of a Dime

Teresa Higginbotham writes articles about frugal living and homeschooling. Find articles, freebies and great ideas for your family at her two websites, Tightwad Tess at, and The Frugal Homeschooler at

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