You surprised the kids over the holidays with a spring break trip to Florida. Although the beach scene should be a big hit with your teen, Disney World will be awesome for your 10-year-old.
But here’s something to keep in mind as you start planning for the trip: Carve out time with the kids to talk about souvenir shopping and spending rules.
Do that, and you will likely instill good financial habits in your young shopper that will carry over for years.
As a veteran of many family vacations, I can attest that the real budget busting often occurs during souvenir excursions for T-shirts, stuffed animals, necklaces made from sea shells, and lots of other stuff. Yet many parents are reluctant to say no when their child gets a case of the gift-shop gimmies.
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I’ve got news for you: If you haven’t already learned to give the thumbs down to your kids, a T-shirt shop packed with fellow tourists is not the best place to start.
Here then are some souvenir-shopping strategies from experts that both parents and kids can embrace. Tailor these tips to your own family needs, and go over all the shopping ground rules before you leave town.
▪ Set limits. Vacations are no different than any other big-ticket purchase — it helps to set a firm budget to avoid overspending on meals, activities and, to be sure, souvenirs.
If you have a $50 limit on souvenirs, for example, tell your kids they’ll be responsible for paying for anything over the budgeted amount.
And if there’s money left over, here’s an idea from Don Milne, a financial literacy manager with Zions Bank in Salt Lake City: Let the kids pocket the remainder as a reward for showing financial self-control and not throwing temper tantrums.
▪ Let kids spend their own pocket money. Give your kids spending money, and adjust the amount based on their age, said California financial educator Elisabeth Donati. When the money is gone, the shopping is done, she said.
Another approach: Let the kids earn their spending money by doing household chores before the trip.
When kids use their own money rather than tapping your wallet, it’s amazing how much more carefully they watch their pennies. In the process, kids can learn to compare prices, see the differences in the cost of products, and sharpen their decision-making skills.
▪ Window shop. Before hitting the stores, “let children know that they will look, leave and think about it,” said Kyra Ostendorf, a vice president with Kaplan Early Learning Co. “If it’s still something they wanted on the last day, go back and get that one special thing.”
▪ Focus on the experiences. Include the kids in planning the itinerary, right down to picking out the excursions, the rides and the food.
“Reinforce that vacations are about making great memories and having fun, not buying lots of stuff from the gift store,” said Peter Tompkins, a financial educator from Britain.
After all, what’s the first thing you want your kids to share with their friends after the trip? How much money was spent at the T-shirt shop or how cool it was swimming with the sea turtles?
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879