NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Once you have kids, it's just a fact of life: at some point they're going to have to come with you grocery shopping. And while you might not relish the idea of having to tell them "no" when they request that you buy every sugary cereal in the store, what if we told you that you might be able to enlist them in your battle to keep grocery prices down? Two financial experts -- and mothers -- are about to tell you how to make it happen.
Take Your Kids, Teach Your Kids
"Many articles tell moms to shop without their kids, but I have always believed in taking my kids with me and engaging them in the shopping process," says Sia Hills, one of the two co-founders of ThriftyNorthWestMom.com and a mother of three. When her kids would ask for things, rather than telling them "no," she would explain why they couldn't buy it (it wasn't on sale, or was too expensive) and suggest an alternative in the family's price range. In doing so, Hills sought to teach her kids how to shop better for themselves.
Ellie Kay, a family financial expert and mother of seven, has another way of teaching your kids when they come shopping with you: give them tasks and financially reward them for completing them. "If my kids helped me save money, I would give them a percentage of what they helped me save," she says. For example, if she saved $50, she would give 10%, or $5. That's obviously not a lot of money to you or me, but remember how big of a deal five bucks was when you were kid? "It gets them hooked on the satisfaction of saving money," she says. "It literally adds up to dollars in their pocket."
Finally, another task that Kay has given to her kids to teach them has to do with weights and measures. When you head down to the grocery store, you can have your kids find the cheapest option by unit price. You can also have them go around to pre-bagged bulk items and weight them. This teaches your kids that unit price is what is really important.
Give Your Kids Tasks
Both Kay and Hills suggest that, when your kids are old enough, they can help you to find things in the store. This is especially useful if it's something that your children want. It turns what is a boring errand into a bit of a game for them. Kay likens it to a scavenger hunt. Your kids have to be old enough, but when they are, they can help you to save time in the grocery store by grabbing things for you. "Not only does that get them involved, it also prepares them for when they have to shop for themselves," says Hills.
Saving time in a grocery store is functionally the same as saving money. That's because the longer you spend in a grocery store, the more money you spend, statistically speaking. Kay notes that some grocery store chains have this down to a science. They know just how much money per minute you're going to spend and look for the most effective store layout to get you to spend more money.
As your kids get older you can have them pitch in other ways. Kay, for example, points out that when you bring your 14-year-old son shopping, not only can he grab things for you, he can also bag and carry groceries. Whether or not you want to pass along the tip you'd normally give to the bagger onto him is up to you.
Show Them How to Use Apps
Kay is a big fan of shopping apps like Yowza and RetailMeNot. Little kids like using mobile devices for their own sake, while older kids might even be more savvy at using a shopping app than you would be. Your kids can be doing research for you on deals you might have missed while you shop. "The technology driven savings will help teenagers to be more interested in saving you money," says Kay. And again, you can pass along a portion of the savings -- though your teenagers probably won't be bought off as cheaply as your younger kids.
"I can tell you that I have three kids, ages 6 to 17, and all three of them search for the best deals, use coupons or just know a great value -- even when they are not shopping with me," says Hills, who notes that her kids will sometimes cross-check each other's work. "It's become a habit for them to look for savings." So while you might be helping your kids save money, you're also helping them to save money throughout their entire lives.
Written by Nicholas Pell for MainStreet