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How to Start a Conversation About Money with Your Kids Using Groceries


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"As parents, we teach our kids about things we feel competent in. That's why so many parents don't teach their kids about money." -Dave Ramsey

Starting the conversation about money and all it entails with your children can be tough. It's hard to know what topics they are ready for at each age and stage and if you feel lacking in your own financial experience or success, there can be a fear of steering them in the wrong direction added on top of that. But the good news is that you don't need to have all the answers; simply starting to talk about money with your kids can open the door to discussions and questions that will guide your conversations and build your confidence. 

But how to start? Over the next few weeks, we'll talk about different ideas for how to start talking about money with your kids through the kinds of things you do on a regular basis anyway. By simply pointing out how money is a part of our lives and how you interact with it, you'll start to open their awareness and pique their curiosity. Not only will they start to understand the impact of money in our lives, but you'll also get a chance to spend some quality time with them. It's a win-win!

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So to start, here are a few, simple ideas centered around grocery shopping, meal planning, and budgeting that you can try with your kids. 

Starting the conversation can be as simple as showing your child the price of food as you pick it up off the shelf at the grocery store. Point out price differences between different brands of the same product or point out how different types of products are more expensive than other types (meat vs vegetables, for instance). If your grocery store has pre-cut veggies or fruits, you can show the price difference in those compared to whole produce and point out how you're paying for the effort of the store employee to do the cutting and prepping for you.

Another approach is to set a budget for your trip to the grocery store and have your child help you estimate if you will be able to buy everything on your list within your budget. You can even give them a calculator at the store and have them add the amounts up as you go, though this is probably better for a small list in case they press the wrong button midway through! (Meltdowns mid-grocery store trip will not contribute to helping you feel confident teaching your children about money). When you get home from the store, sit down with your child and compare your receipt to your budget. Are you over? Did you buy any impulse items that contributed to that? Look for the higher priced items on the receipt and talk about whether there might have been lower priced options that you could have purchased instead.

And for older kids, try giving them a budget and have them plan a meal for the family. You can guide them before you go on what general prices of different items are so they can get an idea of whether or not their plan is in range of the budget. When you're there, help them search out sales on comparable ingredients and look at serving sizes of ingredients compared to what they need for their recipe or meal (e.g. don't buy the gallon of milk if you only need a cup). Not only will they gain some financial and budgeting skills with this exercise, but they'll also learn about meal planning, serving sizes, cooking measurements, and how it feels to care for others in your family. 

If you aren't heading to the grocery store in the near future, grab an ad from the mail and challenge them to plan a meal or dish using the foods featured in the ad. Then figure out the quantities needed and use the sale prices in the ad to calculate how much it would cost. 

Hopefully these examples help show how easy it is to simply start talking to your kids about money and how it's used in every day life. Try taking a screen shot of the image below and use it the next time you head to the grocery store with your kid. And if you're looking for a fun and easy tool to help your kids start managing the money they have today, check out our Beyond the Bank binders - they have zipper pockets where kids can keep their money (no more losing track of where they've put it) and ledgers for them to start tracking where the money comes from and where it's being spent. And with different sections for saving, giving, investing and spending, kids start learning how to allocate and budget their money in a fun and holistic way. 

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