We are making a grand effort at our home to cut back where we can and question whether or not we really need what we are about to buy. Through a new series, Savvy Spenders, I’m trying to teach my oldest daughter some lessons about responsible consumerism. Thankfully we are not forced to be making these choices. However, I really want my kids to learn the importance of spending wisely because someday they will benefit from the lesson. The instant gratification of the $5.00 toy should make way for college savings or donations to the local food pantry.
I recently put our new focus to the test during back to school shopping. My first step was to go online and find coupons for clothing stores. I told Sophia that we were only going to shop at those stores. I had a 40% off for Justice, a $10.00 off for JCPenny and a fantastic Groupon for the Gap equal to $25.00. We made a point of finding sale items whenever possible while still allowing Sophia to select items that she liked and would wear. Our total savings including coupons and sale items was roughly $150.00. The greater lesson here is that Sophia is beginning to look at what things cost and thinking about what she really needs.
I asked Sophia if there is anything she’d like to share about our shopping day today and she said, “even if you have to shop with coupons, you can still find things that you like to wear”. She also said that, “back to school shopping is really fun”.
What does your family do to save money for back to school shopping?
My very wise friend Karla made an observation while cleaning and organizing a few weeks ago. Her kids were letting go of their childhood toys and she was struck by the amount of seemingly wasted stuff she was tossing. The plastic toys that get played with once or twice, the stickers, superballs, Polly Pockets and such that accumulate all over the house. She wrote, “I felt like I was flushing thousands of dollars away. I wanted to go back and relive every $6.00 purchase and salt away that money for the things I’d really like to give them now; a bigger college fund, a teenage bedroom, private music lessons, hockey camp”.
Her comments have been running over and over in my head for the last couple of weeks. I wrestle with this in my own home and have tried to find a solution. The problem with just saying “no” at the store, is that a life lesson at the store level doesn’t really work with a kid. Kids can’t grasp the benefit of long-term savings. How can I teach my child responsible consumerism?
My (7-year-old) daughter Sophia and I are launching the Savvy Spenders Project and I’m encouraging all of you to try it at home. Savvy Spenders will apply to all “extra” purchases that are non-essential to running a home, (so groceries and other essentials are exempt). We sat down together and came up with the following guidelines;
When at the store and considering a purchase we will ask, IS THIS NECESSARY? If not, we will pass and record how much money we’ve saved. I’ll probably just use notes on my Blackberry or send myself an email with the amount so that I can record it.
At the end of three months we are going to see what we’ve saved by just NOT BUYING. Half of the savings can go toward a family purchase, (ice cream out or something fun) and the other half will go to charity. By the way, the charity idea was Sophia’s. She will help determine how we spend what was saved – I think this is key.
I’ll blog about it from time to time, including some Q&A with Sophia. If you plan to try something like this in your own home, I encourage you to keep it simple. Notice that we haven’t started out with a lot of rules around what we are trying to do. She’s 7 and I’m busy, so our process needs to be simple and easy to maintain.
As always, please send me your ideas, thoughts and comments. Happy Saving!