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School-Age Children & Shopping

Talking with your child about money can go smoother if you keep the conversation age appropriate. The conversation starters and activities here can help you find the words.

Conversations about shopping

  • Explain “free” offers online, such as cellphone ringtones or games, can be scams to get people to spend money without realizing it
  • Remind your child even though advertising tries to get you to spend more money, you're the one who decides when you spend and what you buy
  • Talk to your child about when it’s easy to buy something, like one-click purchases inside a game, or adding something small to what you’re already buying. Explain that’s a good time to slow down and think twice.
  • Listen to your child’s stories about how friends and peers shop and spend, and talk about your family’s habits and priorities
  • If you’ve been taken in by a scam, don’t be afraid to share the story and what you learned to avoid
  • With your child, compare prices for a particular toy or game at various online or brick-and-mortar stores
  • Use coupons and discount cards, and show your child how much you're saving. Consider allowing him to keep part of the savings, if he helps clip or print out coupons.
  • Share stories about times you successfully shopped for a better deal – or missed out

Activities about shopping

What's on a receipt
What's on a receipt
Print out this activity sheet for your next shopping trip and practice rounding up to include sales tax and estimating the price you’ll pay at the register.
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The activity

Use this activity with your child to explore shopping and estimating what you’ll pay at the register. This is an introduction to the critical thinking skills, attitudes and habits, and basic financial decisions common when spending money. The price of an item isn’t always the same as the amount you pay at checkout, because of sales taxes. Your child can start developing the habit of estimating costs and mentally budgeting as you go.

What to do

Help your child understand how shopping totals are affected by sales taxes in your area. Point out prices to your child and discuss how something that's a specific price will be more at the checkout counter. On a future shopping trip, use the Round Up as You Go worksheet to help your child estimate total costs, including taxes.

This activity can help children in middle childhood develop healthy money habits, which is important to day-to-day money management as adults.

Things to talk about

Based on what your child discovers through the activity, consider ways he or she could follow through. Each shopping trip is an opportunity to expand on the basic idea. For example, together you could:

  • Look at a recent shopping trip receipt and compare the total prices with and without taxes
  • Have your child keep a tally of shopping items on a future trip and estimate the total costs, including taxes, before you check out
  • Discuss how taxes at a grocery store can differ from a gas station, or a big box store

Round up as you go

When you’re in the store, you might not have time to stop and calculate sales taxes. But if you don’t think about it, you might be surprised at the checkout. As you shop, use a rule of thumb: Round up each item to get an estimate of the total cost. Examples: round up $2.99 to $3.00 and $1.25 to $1.50.


Help your school-age child and preteen reach money milestones...