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Back to school

School shopping a great time to teach kids money lessons

August 29, 2011
By JOHN PEPIN - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MUNISING - With children heading back to school, some Michigan State University Extension Service educators suggest it might be a great idea to let the young students work on shopping for their school supplies and clothes to gain a better appreciation of budgeting and the value of a dollar.

Joan Vinette, an MSU Extension educator in Munising, said parents should think about their own habits as they head into school shopping.

"Kids model parents and the biggest thing they can do to teach their kids about money is set a good example," Vinette said.

Article Photos

Jordan Benz, 10, of Marquette and his mother, Kacie Hanford, shop for school supplies at Target to prepare for fifth grade at Bothwell. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)

She suggested parents not overspend, set up a spending plan, making a list of things needed before going back to school shopping. She said the list should be broken down into needs and wants, with the help of children.

In doing this, kids can gain appreciation of what they can and cannot afford, given the back to school budget available.

"This a one-time-a-year thing," Vinette said. "Retailers are happy about it, it's one of the biggest shopping times of the year, but there's a lot of pressure on families."

She said logos, brand names and images are being restricted by some school districts and kids should think about this when deciding what they need versus what they want.

"If they spend money on something they can't wear to school that's money out of a tight family budget, which might not be appropriate," Vinette said.

Vinette said the self-confidence of children builds when choices are made with them involved, rather than dictated by parents.

"The parents are learning too," Vinette said. "By doing this they're probably taking a different approach toward money."

Another suggestion is to encourage kids to come with ways to earn money. These selling opportunities, like lemonade stands or other endeavors, provide opportunities for kids to experience money and learn about the value of money, Vinette said.

"If they can think in terms of spending, saving and sharing they can learn some healthy life skills," Vinette said.

From pre-schoolers through teens, Vinette said there are activities children can be involved with to learn to better appreciate money. This year, MSU Extension has been working with a curriculum called DollarWorks2, which contains some of these ideas:

Pre-schoolers do not really understand abstract ideas like time and money. They may think that a nickel is worth more than a dime because it's bigger. They do not understand how credit cards and checks work. They do understand the idea of buying things but do not understand that money can be limited. For these kids, some suggestions include counting and sorting coins with the child, play games that teach about money and read them stories and books about money.

Elementary schoolchildren are eager to learn, but their attention span is short and they find it hard to make choices. Money means more to them, but they may be careless with it. They are just beginning to understand the connection between today's decisions and tomorrow's results. Some activities suggested include playing "store" or "going to the market," help them set aside money for small items to buy in the future or have them help write a shopping list and help do the shopping.

Pre-teens are looking for approval from their friends rather than from their parents. They may want to spend freely, especially to be accepted by the group. They may base their self-confidence on the material items they have or can buy. Some suggestions include help them set goals for money use, help them write a spending plan, explore with them what they can do without spending money and allow them to make their own decisions about some of their money.

Teenagers want to be freee to make their own choices. The way a teenager handles money may change over time. Teens' attitudes about money and their use of money may cause conflict with their parents or other adults. Involve them in family talks about money. Some suggestions include let them earn money at a job, helpt them set up a spending plan, encourage them to compare costs of an item at three different stores, help them learn to write checks and manage their own bank accounts and encourage them to save money for clothes, camps, gifts and future goals.

For more money related ideas, visit: www.mimoneyhealth. org.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.



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