Kids and Money:  Teach your kids to find their voice as consumers this holiday season

Kids and Money: Teach your kids to find their voice as consumers this holiday season

by Steve Rosen
November 25, 2020

Kids and Money:  Teach your kids to find their voice as consumers this holiday season

Kids and Money: Teach your kids to find their voice as consumers this holiday season

by Steve Rosen
November 25, 2020


My daughter’s dog ate my money.

If you don’t believe me, I have a tattered $5 bill I can show you. But rather than chalking it up to a dog being a dog, I took the evidence to my bank and asked if they’d swap out my “dirty money” for fresh crisp currency.

And guess what, they did. They swapped out my bills for fresh ones, without making me feel embarrassed for my request.

I mention this because the upcoming holiday season presents lots of opportunities to teach your kids to become assertive consumers, to not be skittish about asking for help or asking for a refund or better deal when interacting with customer service, restaurant carryout or even a sales clerk at the mall. All they can say is “no.”

Consider two more examples from my recent shopping experiences.

A week after purchasing a birthday gift online for my wife, I noticed the same item on sale and priced more than $50 less than what I paid, with free shipping to boot. After emailing customer service, asking for the sale price and noting that I had shopped on their site before, they refunded the difference in price, subtracted my shipping expense and recalculated the sales tax. A $60 refund, and no forms to fill out either.

Then there was the restaurant that accidentally shorted me about $10 worth of onion rings and fries on my carryout order. I didn’t notice the mistake until I got home but didn’t want to make a return trip. I called the restaurant, and the manager promised to make it right — with a free sandwich on my next visit and a bottle of barbeque sauce, which made me very happy.

If your kids find themselves in similar types of situations, resist the urge to write the email or make the phone call complaint for them. Let your kids handle it if it’s age-appropriate. Coach them through what to say when making the ask. It will build up confidence in negotiating skills — confidence that will pay off down the road.

With so much more shopping being pushed online this holiday season, there are great opportunities to help your kids sharpen their consumer skills.

Vicki Fitzgerald, a Portland, Oregon, financial educator and the author of the “Simple Guide to Saving: For the Young & Broke,” recommends starting by helping your kids create a gift spending plan, or budget, if you will. Have them determine how much they have to spend all together, then make a list of people they want to buy a gift for and determine the amount they want to spend on each.

They can even create a spreadsheet with the name and amount to spend, Fitzgerald said.

Teach them the ins and outs of shopping online, too. Your child might need help using the search box on a retailer website and sorting prices from low to high, for example.

Or, if shopping on Amazon, Fitzgerald suggested explaining what “sponsored” means and why those advertising listings will usually appear at the top of a search.

Talk about customer reviews and star ratings, and why it’s important to be skeptical of the information, Fitzgerald said. According to Bloomberg News, 42% of Amazon reviews assessed by analysis tool FakeSpot appear to be unreliable.

Don’t forget to mention the need to factor shipping and taxes into the total price, she said. Then log the total price on the spreadsheet and see if your novice shopper can find a comparable item elsewhere, including resale shops like Goodwill.

Finally, don’t let your child give up if they get caught in a customer service phone call loop. Make sure they persist until they hear a live voice.

This article is written by Steve Rosen and Tribune Content Agency from Kids & Money and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Teaching kids about money is the first step to a healthy financial future. With a Junior Savers Account, your child learns that saving money can be fun. Plus, he or she will have access to family fun at the bank all year long!


Stay Connected