Turning back-to-school shopping into money lessons for your kid

How to turn back-to-school shopping into money lessons for your kid

This week’s online poll finds parents and kids hammering out their differences in the shoe aisle.

You and your kid hit the mall, and you’ve each got a list.

Your list: No. 2 Pencils, loose-leaf binder paper, glue sticks, highlighters, and so on. The classroom essentials, and maybe a couple of wardrobe fresheners, too. You have a budget for your kid, and you’re sticking to it.

That budding scholar’s list probably includes some items yours doesn’t: Designer jeans, graphic tees, conversation-starting sneakers. Call them the inessentials.

So, while you’re in the school supplies aisle comparing protractors, he’s probably off in the clothing section looking for trendy gear to impress his friends—including those fancy (and pricey) kicks.

When you reunite with him in the checkout line and compare shopping carts, it’s another episode of the great parenting saga of Wants vs. Needs. And that’s what this week’s Poll the Parents is all about. Here are the results:

Poll the parents back to school shopping

Two positive takeaways: Only a handful of you were willing to write a blank check in the name of coolness. And just a few more were willing to link this reward to chores. I think it’s always a mistake to link chores to cash. Do you really want your kid negotiating for Air Jordans in exchange for taking out the recycling—or neglecting a chore because he’ll just be losing something he doesn’t really need?

Most parents chose a tougher response: Asking your kid to pony up. But as Facebook commenter Teresa Jacobson wrote, “This question is definitely dependent on the circumstances.” True, but if you have a sneakerhead on your hands who just wants to add to his collection, then I agree with the 29% of you who would say, “Save up if you want them.” But if your kid really needs shoes (just not a pair this snazzy), then splitting the cost seems fair.

Either way, you’re asking him to put some skin in the game, so try a tip from my book, Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not): Ask him to focus on the long-term negative effect of this potential splurge, whether you help him pay for it or he shoulders the costs himself. “If we buy these shoes, it’s going to take longer to save for that new bike.” If you do persuade him to settle for a cheaper pair of Keds, praise him for resisting a powerful spending impulse—and yourself for striking another blow for needs over wants.

Earn and learn

“The kid will appreciate the value of money only if they understand the hard work and amount of hours required to produce that $100 or $200 dollars. That could be 10-20 hours of work required at $10 an hour!”

—Natale Rochlin

Cents and sensibility

“I would decide what amount you would be willing to spend on shoes and however much more the shoes he wants cost he can make up that difference.”

—Ashley Carmody

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