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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

United States television hit reality series So You Think You Can Dance hostess Cat Deeley once said, “I don’t shop because I need something; I just shop for shopping’s sake!” As the mom of two boys, I don’t get many requests from my sons to go shopping at the mall unless they have a specific reason to go there. For instance, their favorite electronics store is located in the mall along with our local sporting goods store. But even then, if it were up to them I would drop them off at the mall entrance and reappear later to pick them up when they sent a request for my presence via text message.

Make a Plan – And Stick With It!

Getting them to buy new clothes is like pulling teeth and something else they’d much rather do alone. Besides, the risk one of their peers overhearing their mommy ask them embarrassing questions like, “Do you want the red shirt or the blue one?” is just too great. So together we devised a plan that allows them the freedom to make responsible choices without having “helicopter mom” hovering over their every purchase. Here are some of the things on our list. If you’re a parent of a teen who dreads the headache associated with a trip to the shopping mall, perhaps they’ll be of use to you, too!

1. Don’t plan for anything except a trip to the mall that day. Even when I drop my boys off at the entrance, I am usually at the nearest coffee shop with my laptop with my cellphone handy. That way my workday isn’t interrupted and I’m accessible by email, Skype, and phone if they happen to need me for anything. (They rarely ever do but it’s still nice to present them with the option.) While I work away in uninterrupted bliss, they’re testing the waters of making responsible choices with their money in a somewhat controlled environment.

2. Decide on a budget beforehand, and pick your battles. Each of my sons has a PayPal student account. When it’s time for them to go school shopping, I simply add their spending limit on the card. The first year I watched in wry amusement as one of my sons exited the mall with one pair of jeans, two t-shirts, and a leather bomber jacket – but no new socks for gym class.

One of the conditions my husband and I laid out was that if they didn’t get what was on their school list, we wouldn’t bail them out and purchase the items on their behalf. My son opted to keep the jacket, even though it was at least a size too big, and had his grandmother teach him how to darn his holey socks. His dad and I learned long ago to pick our battles and in the grand scheme of things, we let him keep the jacket.

3. Focus on feelings, not looks when buying clothes. From the time they were old enough to realize the definition of “fashion trend” we’ve taught our sons that it doesn’t matter how much society likes a certain style of clothing (or hair, for that matter), it’s how you feel while wearing that style that’s important. If you spend a lot of money on something that doesn’t feel good to wear, you will wear it less and eventually end up giving it to charity or worse, throwing it in the garbage. What a waste of money! If it doesn’t feel right, don’t buy it.

4. It is okay to splurge. Take for instance the incident with my son and the leather bomber jacket. If I’d been in the store I would have said no. However, that entire school year he never once complained about wearing the same jeans and shirts he’d worn the year before – at least, the ones that still fit. While he grew and his wardrobe shrank, how he felt while wearing that jacket was worth the sacrifice he’d made when buying it. If you’re going to splurge, make sure you’re okay with giving up whatever it takes to afford what you’re splurging on, otherwise when you face financial woes after splurging you could wind up resenting the purchase.

5. Make sure to save all receipts. This is something else I instill in my sons. In stores that offer the option to have receipts emailed as an alternative to providing paper copies, we always choose that one. I move those emails to a folder marked ‘SHOPPING RECEIPTS’ in case I need to refer back to them so that I can return something, access warranty information in the case of electronics, or any other reason.

The Best Teaching is Done by Example

Teaching teens about how to handle their money is important because it helps them prepare for when they become an adult and have to face spending money in the real world without the benefit of parent advice and encouragement. The best way parents can teach their children about responsible spending is to be a good example of it themselves. My husband and I like visiting http://www.debtmanagementplans.uk.com/ for advice on how to handle our own debt, and often share the information with our sons. Because they’ve been handling their own money with a good measure of success for a while now, when they head off to college in a couple of years we’re confident that they’ll continue making good choices then as well.

About the Author

Freelance author Becky James-Muth wasn’t always as careful about money as she is now. Since paying off her credit cards with a debt consolidation loan she now looks at her finances in a much different light. Using a cash-only system, her family’s carefully designed budget still allows them to do things like travel and enjoy their weekly movie and pizza night while saving for the future. When she isn’t writing or researching ways to save money Becky enjoys watercolor painting, reading, and experimenting with recipes that make use of local, organic ingredients.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their teens to shop wisely.

Image courtesy of xalk via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.