Cute, but Costly

by Erin Huffstetler

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Nearly every store has the "oh so cute" shopping carts for kids. Parked next to the full sized carts, they are just begging for kids to take them for a lap around the store. And what kid could resist? To a young child, those pint-sized carts offer the perfect opportunity to play grown up, if only for a little while.

And kids aren't the only ones who find the little carts irresistible. Many parents like them too. While shopping with kids will never be easy, the child-sized carts make the experience a little easier by providing a distraction to keep little ones busy while you shop.

The only problem is that grocery store chains also find the child-sized carts irresistible, and it's not because your child enjoys playing with them, or because they make your shopping experience more pleasant. It's because they increase sales.

By providing your child with a shopping cart, the store is encouraging your child to shop right along with you; just don't count on his or her shopping list to be the same as yours. Candy, cookies, and expensive cereal are just some of the items that are likely to make your little shopper's list.

While saying no is never easy, it's made even more difficult when your child has a place to stow his or her favorite goodies, with or without your permission.

Since the child-sized shopping carts are small, you may not expect them to do much damage to your grocery budget, but don't let their size fool you. Those little carts are certainly big enough to add $20 or more to your grocery bill. Shop four times a month and you could easily add an extra $80 to your grocery expenses!

Luckily, there is a simple way to side-step this latest money trap, and it's a remedy that you and your little helper will both like. When you prepare your shopping list, be sure to make your child a list as well. It doesn't have to include as many items as yours; just four or five items should be sufficient.

Then, when you arrive at the store, hand your child the list, and ask him or her to help you find the items you have written down. Your child will be so busy looking for the items on the list that he or she won't have as much time to add other items to the shopping cart, thus protecting your grocery budget, and keeping your little helper happy.

If your child is still too little to read, cut out or draw pictures of some of the food items that you need at the store. Then, glue the pictures onto index cards, and your child will have an age appropriate shopping list.

To turn grocery shopping into a learning experience, be sure to write the name of each food item under the corresponding picture, so that your child can begin to recognize the names for different foods.

So, take the time to make your child a shopping list. It will save you money, and you won't have to be the Scrooge who says no to those cute little carts.

Erin Huffstetler is a freelance writer and mother of two who resides in East Tennessee. She is the Guide of the Frugal Living section at and the owner of the site My Frugal Home.

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