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Secrets to help teens spend wisely while holiday shopping

Girls smell products in Bath and Body Works in King of Prussia mall, one of the largest retail malls in the U.S.
Girls smell products in Bath and Body Works in King of Prussia mall, one of the largest retail malls in the U.S.

Q: Our teens won’t have much time to shop between the end of their classes and Christmas, and I’m a bit worried. The way they’ve been talking, they could end up making some not-so-great spending choices when they hit the mall. All three have part time jobs and have been saving towards their goals, but because they won’t have much time and they’ll be shopping during the busiest days of the holiday season, what tips can I give them to make it easier to spend their money wisely? ~Grace

A: With so many special deals and enticing offers, this is one of the hardest times of the year for everyone to stick to their lists and keep within their budgets. For teenagers, it’s definitely no different. Furthermore, merchants are keenly aware that today’s teens have plenty of disposable income, so some offers are deliberately targeted at the lucrative teenage consumer.

For parents, however, it can be especially hard to help teenagers with spending advice. All they really want from us is a drive to their location of choice or an injection of funds if they run short. They don’t want help with the mundane – like making a list, checking it twice, or calculating how many hours they need to work at their current level of income to be able to afford that special something.

Finding the right time to talk to your teen

Family dinner time is often the default go-to for chats of this nature, but teens can feel trapped while sitting at the table and be less willing to listen. Rather than accost your teen when you have the time to talk, try to find a time when they seem like they’re not rushed and when they might be receptive to what you want to talk to them about.

A good time to chat can be if your teen drifts into the kitchen while you’re preparing a meal. Ask them to help for a few minutes and talk with them while you work. If you are giving your teen a drive to an appointment or activity, sitting side-by-side in the car is a great time to talk in a non-confrontational way. No one likes to be told what to do with their money and for teens, money equates to freedom. Keeping this in mind will make it easier to find the right words to guide your teens as they learn positive money skills.

Key Shopping Tips for Teens During the Holidays

You’ll never agree with all of their choices

Making wise spending choices takes practice. You won’t agree with all of the purchases and money decisions your teens make, but it’s better that they learn now with smaller amounts of money than later on when a mortgage is at stake. Unless your teen is going to make a mistake that has longer-term negative consequences, hands off mom and dad – the school of hard knocks is in session and ready to teach a lesson. Allowing kids to learn from their mistakes can feel like tough love, especially if we’re easily able to bail them out, but helping at a young age fosters what can turn into an expensive dependence on you later on.

To help your teens make wise spending choices, here are some tips for them to keep in mind:

Determine ahead of time who you are shopping for

It’s an easy time of year to get carried away with our own wishes and wants, so if you’re planning on buying gifts – make a list. Determine ahead of time who you want to buy for, how much you can afford to spend, and if you have any ideas in mind or not. Having a list is one of the best ways to cut down on impulsive spending and it will also help you focus on who you want to buy for. Being generous is very kind, but often unrealistic.

If you see something for yourself along the way, take a picture and save it to a wish list. Share your list with anyone who might still need an idea for you or keep your list handy so that you know what to look for come Boxing Day.

One Page Gift Giving & Budget Planner

Think about your shopping style

Your shopping style will have an impact on your spending. If you are someone who weighs the pros and cons about what you’re buying while you’re shopping, you are more likely to be influenced socially either by friends you’re shopping with, other customers shopping around you, or via feedback from social channels as you post about potential purchases. Many purchases you make will be to fit in with your peers.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who plans ahead of time what you want to buy, does some research online, and comes prepared to make a final choice based on your own preferences, you’re more likely to buy what works best for you. With most of your purchases, you aren’t super concerned if your friends will like them or not.

Sticking to your budget is essential regardless of your style and staying true to your shopping style will result in being more satisfied with your purchases than if you shift styles. Be aware of your style and make the decisions that work best for you.

Top 5 Money Principles Every Kid Needs to Know

Be a savvy shopper and watch out for marketing tricks

Would you rather get something for free or get something with double the value for a drastically reduced price? Is buying three for the price of two better than the discounted price for only one? Maybe buying only one of an item on sale is a better deal for you than a BOGO, buy one get one, because you only want one of that item, not two? Or does the BOGO apply to mix-and-match so that you can cross two gifts off your list? Is a larger-sized container at regular price a better deal than a smaller-sized one at the sale price?

While it can feel like it, it doesn’t take a math or marketing degree to figure out where the deals are to be had. It does, however, mean having enough energy to stay on top of your game. And a smartphone with a calculator app never hurts. Eat a proper meal before you hit the mall, carry a bottle of water and snack in your bag, and don’t shop when you’re tired and frazzled. Avoid making snap decisions without calculating if a deal is worth it or not. Your bank account will thank you.

The bottom line on helping teens spend their money wisely

If you’re a teenager who loves to spend, or a parent of one who does, take heart. The teenage years are thankfully a time in our lives when we have few financial obligations. That doesn’t, however, mean throwing caution to the wind. The teenage years are also when we start to form money habits that stick with us into adulthood. We need to have the opportunity to use money in order to learn how to manage it. Spending during the holidays is like a crash course in budgeting, planning, setting goals, and dealing with the outcomes of our decisions. Acing the class is the gift that keeps on giving.

Related reading:

How to Choose an Affordable Cell Phone Plan

Tips to Teach Kids About Money

Why Messing Up Financially Might be Good for Your Adult Kids

Scott Hannah is president of the Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit organization. For more information about managing your money or debt, contact Scott by email , check or call 1-888-527-8999.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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