Shopping with Kids: How Not to Let It Ruin Your Life and Budget


Any parent reading this is likely to agree that going shopping with children isn’t easy. My little girl used to just grab stuff from the supermarket shelves but has now moved onto the next phase, which is pleading for me to buy every single product with a cartoon character on the packaging.

There is no simple solution to this problem but here are a few tactics which have worked for me in recent weeks.

Agree the Budget Before Leaving Home

A toddler obviously has no idea how much all the things they want to buy cost or how annoying it is to be asked for every single thing in sight. If you try telling them that they can’t buy anything when you are already in the supermarket it is probably too late. Instead, you should try telling them before they even leave the house what they have to spend. If they are old enough you could give them the money which they have for spending purposes on this trip. If they are younger then you would be best explaining their budget in terms they can understand; 2 sweets and a packet of crisps or whatever it is that they can buy. As a kid, I used to go the supermarket on my own with about 30p (yes, it was a few years ago now that you ask) and would spend ages trying to find a way of making it stretch to a 2 litre bottle of lemonade and a packet of biscuits. As strange as it may sound, I think that this way of shopping has stood me in good stead in later life, although it has left me with a rather unhealthy weakness for the supermarket’s own brand lemonade.

Don’t Give Them Too Wide a Choice

One of the mistakes I made at first was to give my daughter too wide a choice of options. We were in the dairy section and – knowing that she loves yoghurts as much as I do – I asked her to choose some. To her it must have seemed like she was in some sort of massive dairy based heaven as she looked around in awe. In the end, she went a bit crazy and started grabbing everything in sight. Now I take two or three products in my hand and ask her to choose which one she wants. As your child gets older you can slowly start to widen their choice and maybe give them a small section of the supermarket display to pick their goodies from. You will probably find that they don’t even really notice all of the other things on sale once you start helping them choose from a more limited selection.

Keep Calm

The worst thing about having an out of control kid in the supermarket with you is that you probably lose your calm at some point. Before I was a father I used to look at the poor parents being dragged around the supermarkets and wonder how they let their children run amok so easily. Ha! Now I know the answer. It is extremely difficult to try and control a youngster who sees chocolate coated puffs and strawberry yoghurts all around them. Having said that, the worst thing you can do is lose control and get really flustered. It is difficult to stay calm in this situation but if you have carried out the first couple of steps on the list then it should be somewhat easier to do. If this doesn’t work then your last resort might be to check if the store has a crèche to keep them happy while you go shopping.

Do you have any tips for shopping with kids and keeping your sanity?

On another note I’d just like to give a quick shout outs to these carnivals for including Money Bulldog recently:

A Financial Carnival for Young Adults | 2 Copper Coins

Carnival of Financial Camaraderie – October 5, 2013 | Save And Conquer

The Carnival Of Financial Independence – Party On Edition! | Stacking Benjamins

Earn More, Spens Less: Volume 5 – The Student Loan Sherpa

Aspiring Blogger – Personal Finance Carnival #16 – October 4, 2013 | Aspiring Blogger

Digital Spikes Carnival

22 Responses to Shopping with Kids: How Not to Let It Ruin Your Life and Budget

  1. I can’t imagine grocery shopping with children. Anytime I have to take the kids I babysit on an errand, I’m exhausted afterwards.

  2. Limiting the choices available is an excellent idea! The kids still get to choose something, but you’ve saved yourself lots of time and frustration by predetermining those choices in the first place. Sounds like a best of both worlds solution. Smart!

  3. Martin says:

    I agree with the tips you have given. Typically I just do not go shopping with my children in order to survive with some money to spare for emergencies. I do agree these tips are good for if you have to bring your children.

  4. dojo says:

    I think another good idea would be to get them involved (as they’re a tad older) in making ‘the list’. This way they know we buy based on the list and can help with the purchases. Feeling involved in the entire process might help them not get as ‘crazy’ as if they were left out of the loop.

  5. I always used to go grocery shopping with my parents as a child, but I don’t remember the details. I do remember my parents telling me that if it wasn’t on the list, they weren’t buying it. Eventually I stopped asking for all of the extras. Great tips.

  6. thankfully, the grocery stores near us have those nifty carts that look like race cars or spaceships.. they tend to make the shopping experience much smoother with toddlers in tow.

  7. I do not have kids but would have a tough time going shopping with them. I remember when I was a kid and I would constantly ask my parents “Can we have this? Can we have this? Can we have this? Why not?!?!?” I guess one day I’ll have to learn to be patient because inevitably I will have to shopping with my kids.

    • Robert Bell says:

      I am sure you will enjoy it DC, although it is a lot more stressful than shopping on your own or with a partner

  8. Daisy Coleman says:

    It helps to have a routine, if the children consistently have the same amount of money to spend every week, then this should make it a bit easier on the parent.

  9. I like to keep my son involved a little in the process…he’s 14 so he doesn’t care to come along. BUT, before I go grocery shopping I ask him what he’d like to see in the snack drawer, as well as if he’d like to see anything added to our meal plan. Sometimes the answer is “yes,” sometimes the answer is “no, too expensive” and sometimes it’s “Pick your favorite 2.”

  10. With 3 kids under the age of 11, my best tip is to leave them home! LOL. If you can’t, then put them to work finding stuff on your shopping list. I have found when they are involved in the process they don’t get bored and start asking for crap. This obviously works best if they aren’t toddlers though.

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