Teaching Your Kids Money Lessons through Back to School Shopping

Kids are usually very excited about shopping, especially when they are buying things to take back to school. You can grab this once in a while opportunity to teach them a few lessons about money before they return to the classroom.

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Kids are usually very excited about shopping, especially when they are buying things to take back to school. You can grab this once in a while opportunity to teach them a few lessons about money before they return to the classroom. As parents, you are not just raising kids; you are raising future adults.  It will come in handy during their university days when they will be on their own

Read Also: Safety Tips for Shopping Online With Your Debit Cards

There back-to-school money lessons drill is worthwhile because kids care about school shopping and have a vested interest in the outcomes since they are the ones to use the backpacks and wear the clothes they pick.

Here are some ideas for schooling your kids about money through shopping:


A spending plan is fundamental for using money wisely, so the process doesn’t start with a trip to the mall but with a conversation. Be in control of the budgeting because you provide the finances. Set a budget and help them do the comparison-shopping.

Needs Vs. Wants

The difference between needs and wants may be the most important lesson of all for kids. Challenge your children when they say ‘I want.’ Have them find the basic version of what they want and discuss how it will fulfill their needs. Take inventory of what they need, typically school supplies and clothing. Work with your child to make a list of everything he or she wants and needs for school and how much it costs, putting the needs first.

Comparison shopping

Looking up prices online before heading to the mall will give you and your child an idea of the price range for that item. Incorporating thrift stores into the shopping process is a great lesson too — especially for clothes or sporting equipment. It makes you think about the extreme markup for new items.


Shopping on a budget allows older children to experience the concept of opportunity costs, or trade-offs — how buying one item limits their ability to buy others. It’s the “money doesn’t grow on trees” lesson. Introduce scenarios in which children must choose between competing spending priorities. “Do you want the 10,000 naira sneakers or a moderately priced pair and an extra pair of jeans?”

Seeking value

The cheapest isn’t always the best buy, and price isn’t always the best indicator of quality. Examine merchandise with your child and talk about how well it’s made and how long it’s likely to last. For clothing, introduce the concept of “cost per wear.” By that measure, a 5,000 naira pair of jeans worn 40 times during the school year is far cheaper than a 1,000 naira pair worn three times.


Don’t bail out your kids if they overspend; instead, take them back to the store to return the items that blew the budget. You could even introduce the concept of credit, borrowing money from you but paying it back with interest: “You can have this fancy binder, but it will cost you 1,000 naira instead of 700 naira and you will have to pay me back”. Teach them on how to resist impulse buys, delay gratification and not succumb to marketing messages.

Look ahead

Beyond needs for the first day of school are expenses while school is in session. Forecast what expenses are likely to crop up during the school year, like new baking set for Home economics classes, spending money for a school trip or cash for end of year party.

Working it

It’s also a good time to talk about the other side of the money ledger, the earning side. That could mean doing extra household chores for pay or, for older teens, getting a job.

Spend cash

Studies show that using credit or debit cards leads consumers to overspend because it takes away some of the psychological pain of handing over hard currency. Back-to-school shopping with cash might be more of a hassle, but it might also make an impression as children see the bills going from wallet to cashier.

And for older children doing their own school shopping, give them cash and tell them as long as they get everything on their list, they can keep whatever is left.

Then you’ll see some smart spending.