Holidays good time to teach consumer skills to children

Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2002

When children want to buy gifts during the holidays it presents a timely opportunity to teach about sharing and about consumer skills.

I remember when my brother was 10 and I was 12, we wanted to buy our dad a Christmas gift. Looking back now as an adult on that experience I can pick out many lessons we learned.

Neither one of us were impulse buyers, so we needed time and several trips to the stores to make our decisions. On the first trip to the stores alone, we looked for items we thought Dad would like and gathered prices. After this trip, we went home and talked about what we should do.

Together we had more money, $10, so we figured the gift should come from both of us. After seeing so many things, we had to decide if we would give one gift or several small ones. On the next trip we bought two items. We were so excited to give those gifts because we had put a lot of thought and planning into them.

This experience made us put into practice consumer skills I'm sure my Dad had been teaching us for years. We had to comparison shop, find information about the price and quality, know about warranties and then find out if the items could be returned.

If you have children that want to buy gifts, here are some things to consider. Keep the price low for young children. Let them come up with their own ideas and be ready with a few of your own or to advise on theirs. Have this discussion before you leave home. Go shopping when you are not hurried and can devote yourself to the child's list. Schedule the shopping when your child isn't tired.

Keep the shopping time short. Let your child carry the allotted money in his or her pocket, purse or wallet. Let your child pay for the item and receive the change.

A set amount of money will challenge the child to make choices about what is wanted most out of the money available, like real life. The amount of money, of course, is determined by the amount the family can afford, the child's level of maturity and the items to be purchased.

Giving a child an allowance for shopping is one way to help children learn the basics of money management.

As mentioned in my column last week, some human development specialists encourage the whole family, even children, to be included in a holiday budget meeting to discuss and understand the limits to holiday spending.

The purpose for providing money for children to spend at the holidays is to introduce young children to the idea of a fixed income and to begin shifting some of the responsibility for setting goals, planning, making decisions and carrying them out from the parent to the child.

Each family is unique in how financial matters are addressed, so everyone will approach this topic differently.

Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs. The Kenai Peninsula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.



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