Financial Incentives for Children

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Kids and Generics

One good way to encourage your kids to choose quality and good price over big names and fancy packaging is to pay your kid to try the generic or off-brand item. This is what I have done with all three of my kids, and I continue to do so even though the youngest is now 18. When my eldest son was about 6, Superman peanut butter appeared on TV ads and at our grocery store. Of course, it came in a cute juice glass container with a picture of Superman on the side. And, of course, it cost about twice the price of the generic peanut butter that I knew tasted great. Unfortunately, he really wanted the Superman brand.

To encourage him to look beyond the "created need," we compared the ingredients listed on the Superman brand and on all the other brands of peanut butter. Then, we compared the price difference. I then told him that if he would give the generic a try, I would pay him the price difference. He took the bait and put the money in his piggy bank to buy some Star Wars figures he wanted. This has failed only a few times.
JD in St. Louis

It Works!

I am living proof that this does work and it is a lesson kept through adulthood. My mom used to give me the money from the coupons I clipped from the Sunday paper if it was for an item we used. Every Sunday, I would scour the coupon pages and I still do! I am the thriftiest member of my family and proud of it!
Cathy T.

Depends on Age

I consider it both financial education and bribery. At 18, it is definitely bribery. An 18-year-old should be able to distinguish between a "good buy" and a "poor buy." However, a younger child (depending on their maturity level) cannot make this distinction. Therefore, it is part of their financial education. My daughter at age 9 can make this distinction. I know some 9-year-olds that cannot. I also know some even younger children that can.

It's Bribery - Plain and Simple

I don't consider this tip to be a good way to teach kids the difference between generic and brand name. I buy mostly generic and I have never had to explain to my child the difference because it isn't a big deal in our home. She only knows that it's peanut butter! My daughter is 7 years old and is no different than any other child in her likes and dislikes, but if I tell her there's a difference, then she would know. We don't discuss or hide it! But, bribing your kids (and that's what it is) to eat a certain brand is just teaching them that the name brand is better.
Patrice of Pueblo, Colorado

Where's My Quarter?

Why does bribery have to be such a bad word? Of course, it's bribery! But done right, it is also "Financial Education." "Bribing" done really right is also "Life Education." If you do good things, then good things happen. If you make smart decisions, then you get ahead. Of course, we don't want to raise kids expecting to be paid money for every good thing they do or decision they make. But, if we really looked at it, it's an unrealistic fear. I have never met an adult who asked me for his quarter for getting his chores done.

Teach Them to be Smart Shoppers

You asked whether this was bribing or financial education. I also used this with my three children from the time they could count money, and I definitely considered it financial education. Isn't that what we all do when we make frugal choices? We save the difference so we can use it on something else we'd rather spend it on. Same thing with children. Some may say you haven't saved anything since you gave the difference to the child, but if you look at it as them having money to spend on something you probably would have paid for anyway, you've saved in the long run and taught them to be smart shoppers.

Take a Different Approach

This does sound like bribery. I shouldn't have to pay my children so I can save our family some money. When you pay your child for choosing the no-name brand, you are giving the impression that they deserve money back whenever they choose a cheaper option. That's not going to work when you're on a tight budget and simply can not afford the more expensive items.

I would have chosen a different option. If my son really wanted the Superman peanut butter, then he could use his allowance to pay the difference between the Superman peanut butter and the generic brand that I usually buy. By doing this, he has to stop and think about how much he really needs an item.
T. D.

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