“Dad, look, here’s a $10 gift card to Toys R Us. Can we go?”
“Well, honey, that’s not really a $10 coupon. It’s $10 off if we spend $75. We would have to spend $75 in order to save $10.”
“Ok. Let’s go.”
The world of children is often described as very black and white (I want this, and I’m going to die if I don’t get it.), but the nuances of gray most often challenge us as parents. Some coupons are good, and some coupons are not so good (white and a slightly grayish-black). Our neighbor gave our 6-year-old a coupon organizer filled with various coupons that would seem to both of them to be a very noble gift.
I will say this: It led to a teaching moment. We were able to explain to our daughter that a coupon for something you intend to buy or something you actually need is an excellent way to save money. Because she now somewhat grasps the basic idea of marketing and advertising (to get people to spend money), we explained to her that the coupon she thought was a gift card ($10 off if you spend $75 at Toys R Us) was really just an invitation to spend $65 or more. Granted, money spent at Toys R Us would likely yield something she wanted, but we were able to turn the conversation back to her Save jar. Because she’s currently saving for a $79 item (one of those folding chair / bed combos) and is aware of how much time that’s taking her, we were able to explain the purpose of that coupon a little easier.
Teaching moments are terrific, and the more context you can provide for your child (the more relatable to her experiences), the more valuable these opportunities will be. This lesson certainly doesn’t mean she wouldn’t love to go on a $65 shopping spree at Toys R Us (She would, and heck, I would.), but it does help her to understand the concept that the money spigot must be turned off regularly in order for it to provide money when it’s turned on.
Oh, and we’re going to go use a 40% off coupon at Aaron Brothers to get some canvases we planned on buying for an art project this afternoon. Teaching moments rule.