How to make your kids lifelong value shoppers

I went to the mall on Monday and bought an Aeropostale t-shirt that fits me beautifully for $4.50, and the color -- baby blue -- is my color.

I mention this partly because it's always fun to save $15 but also because, for me, the thrill of saving $15 is more exciting than the actual savings. Saving money makes me happy and, if you're a dedicated bargain shopper, you know exactly what I'm talking about: it's not just about money.

Developing a thirst for bargains and a love of saving money is a great way to increase your chances of a prosperous future. It's also one of the best gifts you can give to your children.

If you're looking to make your youngster a smart shopper, here are some tips I learned from my mother, who is a local legend known as "The Yard Sale Queen." Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent in other people's garages with her, haggling over the value of their castoffs:

  • Make it fun! If you're going grocery shopping with kids who are old enough to understand basic concepts about money, make bargain shopping a game! Spread out the Sunday newspaper with coupons and the grocery store fliers for the week and see who can find the most super-bargains: items that are on sales, have a coupon, and are products that you actually use.
  • Focus on the positive! Even if you're in a rough financial spot and bargain shopping is a necessity you'd rather avoid, do not talk about that aspect of it with your kids. If they see bargain shopping as a necessary evil, they'll resent it and, as soon as they have an income of their own (and a credit card), they'll seize the opportunity and pay full retail. If you shop for clothing at thrift shops, emphasize the environmentally-friendly aspect of it, and the fact that by saving money that way, you aren't supporting inhuman labor practices, and can use the money to support charities, or save for college.
Whatever your reasons for bargain shopping, you can sell it to your kids as something that's fun and savvy. If you do that, you'll be planting the seeds for a lifetime of smart spending.
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