Sunday, November 15, 2009

A $10 Gift Card? A Coupon Teaching Moment

"Dad, look, here's a $10 gift card to Toys R Us. Can we go?"
"Well, honey, that's not really a $10 coupon. It's $10 off if we spend $75. We would have to spend $75 in order to save $10."
"Ok. Let's go."

The world of children is often described as very black and white (I want this and if I don't get it, I am going to die), but it's the nuances of gray that most often challenge us as parents. Some coupons are good, some coupons are not so good - white and a slightly grayish-black. Our neighbor gave our 6-year-old a coupon organizer filled with various coupons that would seem to both of them to be a very noble gift.

I will say this - it led to a teaching moment. We were able to explain to our daughter that a coupon for something you intended to buy or something you actually needed is an excellent way to save money. Because she now somewhat grasps the basic idea of marketing and advertising - to get people to spend money - we explained to her that the coupon she thought was a gift card, "$10 off if you spend $75 at Toys R Us," was really just an invitation to spend $65 or more dollars. Granted, money spent at Toys R Us would likely yield something she wanted, but we were able to turn the conversation back to her Save jar. Because she's currently saving for a $79 item (one of those folding chair/bed combos), and she was aware of how much time that was taking her, we were able to explain the purpose of that coupon a little easier.

Teaching moments are terrific and the more context you can provide for your child, the more relatable to her experiences, the more valuable it will be. This lesson certainly doesn't mean she wouldn't love to go on a $65 shopping spree at Toys R Us (she would...heck, I would), but it does help her to understand the concept that the money spigot must be turned off regularly in order for it to provide money when it's turned on.

Oh, and we're going to go use a 40% coupon at Aaron Brothers to get some canvases we planned on buying for an art project this afternoon. Teaching moments rule.


Kerrie Davis said...

Thank you John for reminding all of us of the importance of teaching smart shopping to our youngest. It is so important and this is a perfect time during the Holidays to have those conversations.

If we start early our kids will learn to "spend smart" as they get older. Working with the tweens and teens I can say without a doubt that earlier is better. As they get older and more embedded into the marketing messages it makes it 10 times harder to bring those lessons home.

If we want to make a difference in the money management decisions that our young people make in the future it is critical that we start as early as possible. That will give them a firm foundation as they grow older and face more "life circumstances".

Thank you John for all of your help in developing the Teaching Guide! I am also very proud of the Teaching Guide winning the Desjardins award for Youth Financial Literacy. That is quite the endorsement of what we have been Championing-smarter and wiser kids - learning to Share! Save! and Spend Smart! It is critical that we teach those lessons of saving money, sharing with others and spending wisely. So parents, don't wait, start now and take those teaching moments with your kids! Happy Holidays!!

Kerrie Davis

Lisa said...

John, I heartily applaud your work regarding kids and money. I too am a believer in the importance of teachable moments. In fact, I frequently equate teaching our youth about financial management to learning to drive a car. They are both essential life skills that oftentimes make parents nervous. Yet without our input and the ability to frequently practice under our guidance, our kids will have a much harder time acquiring the skills they need to thrive as adults. Thank you for work on behalf of financial literacy education.