teach them diligently [shopping on a budget]

Welcome to the ninth installment of my Teach Them Diligently series. If you’re new here and would like to see the other topics, click below.

January [ironing]

February [the oven]

March [saving]

April [safety]

May [purging]

June [written correspondence]

July [cleaning the bathroom]

August [planning]


One of my goals for this year is to continue teaching my children some skills to make them more independent of me. A focus of our learning around here is to take full advantage of all the learning we can in and around the home. In addition to math, science, and languages, I feel it’s my duty to help my children learn to care for their own needs.

Each month of this year, I am focusing on a different skill/chore and taking my time to instruct my children. This isn’t earth-shattering news. These aren’t difficult skills. No doubt generations of mothers before me have been doing this since the dawn of time. I have been slowly showing and teaching my children these things since they were tiny.

First it was to put away toys into baskets and bins and over the years that has evolved into doing their own laundry, loading and emptying the dishwasher, and making their own beds. As they are growing, so, too, should their level of involvement around the house.

Our kids do earn “commissions” for a few set chores each week, but the skills we are working on this year are “just because” skills. They will learn to set a budget for shopping (in this case, for clothing) and use cash to pay for what they are buying. They will learn to think through needs and wants, determine total price + tax, and make their purchase. 

During this back to school season, I’ve been trying to take each of the kids shopping to give them opportunities for some input on their fall clothes. I primarily get my kids’ clothes from Old Navy and Gap and occasionally find a few pieces at Marshall’s or Target.

A few weeks ago I took Thomas and he was miserable the entire time. He literally tried on jeans because I made him, and wanted to grab a few shirts, a vest, some athletic pants, socks and get-the-heck-outta-Dodge! #suchaguy

Mae and Kate on the other hand have been thrilled to take little shopping jaunts with Mom. I actually order a lot of their stuff online from Old Navy and Gap and then put things away in their closets. For a few years they have been at ages/sizes where there’s just a lot of trashy stuff out there for little girls. I find that Gap and Old Navy keep it simple, keep it classy, and keep it age appropriate.

To fill in some basics, I have given the girls a little freedom to pick out fun shoes and a few fun pieces of play clothes.


(above: showing off their Stevies for Target after co-op a few weeks ago)

Last weekend, Mae, Kate, and I went out for some fun! We are pretty much squared away for fall clothes, but I gave my girls each a $20 bill as their “budget” with the only parameters being that the money had to be spent on clothes (not a toy) and that I did get the final say.

We went to a little shopping center in town and started out at Justice (which I hate, and they have only ever had one or two items from…please don’t even get me started…). Mae and Kate soon discovered that $20 will get you almost nothing in Justice and I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s funny because I think my view on all of the sparkly, glittery, flammable items in Justice has begun to wear off on my girls. (Why doesn’t Carter’s go up to pre-teen sizes, I ask?)

Next we walked into Ross and the girls each found a few shirts that were a little on the sketchy side of my/our taste. We all reasoned that we’d have the items placed on hold until we could visit a few other stores and if we still liked the Ross shirts, then we’d come back.

We went in Marshall’s but didn’t see anything any of us just loved.

I knew, and Mae and Kate knew too, that their $20 would go farthest at Target.


True to my homeschool mom form, I made sure to have the girls add up each item and keep a running total as they negotiated which items they wanted to buy. We had a lot of discussions about whether or not they wanted one more expensive item or many less expensive items. We spent almost 45 minutes in that small girls’ clothing area mixing and matching, adding and subtracting, thinking and deciding.

Finally, we had our minds made up! My girls had NEVER been to the fitting room at Target and so we walked back to the far corner of the store and they modeled tried on their swag.

Kate chose to buy a sweater that was $16.99. Mae chose some jeggings for $6, and two shirts for $7 each. (I had agreed to cover the tax if they went over by a little!)

I had forgotten about my Cartwheel app, but our awesome cashier reminded me that there was a 30% off deal going on for girls’ apparel. I only wish you could have seen Kate and Mae’s faces when the coupon was applied to their totals.


Cartwheel brought Kate’s total down to $12 (and change) and Mae’s total down to $15 (and change). Like any woman, they found such joy in “getting a good deal!” That was money back in my their pockets! We celebrated by getting an Icee!


So my take-aways on this little lesson/shopping excursion are these:

  • we don’t want to be impulse buyers
  • we plan ahead and bring our (cash) money
  • we stay within the boundaries of the pre-set budget, once the money is gone…it’s gone
  • while we normally prefer quality over quantity, giving my girls’ some fun money for some fun add-ons to their fall clothes gave them an opportunity to find their own style, and determine how they wanted to spend their money
  • I hope that they take a little more care of their things; Mae and Kate were both pretty proud of their purchases…each came home and showed Ryan before they put their new items away
  • it reminded me that while my girls are still little girls, they are growing into little young ladies and the more often I can create opportunities while they are young to make good choices and model good spending/budgeting behaviors, the more likely these lessons will stick when they are grown


Do you have any fun tips for teaching your children the value of budgeting and shopping? At what ages have you begun to give your kids more freedom of choice? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

3 thoughts on “teach them diligently [shopping on a budget]

  1. Karen Ward says:

    Oh my…I remember doing that with Rachel. I had given her a set amount. We went to the dreaded Justice and she found a top that would have taken every cent. I suggested we look around at other stores. We went to Penney’s where she found the same top for way less so she was able to get something else. Such a teachable moment!! She is a very good clothes shopper today. Although, the girl does have a shoe addiction!!


  2. Laura Taylor says:

    Love this Claire. You wouldn’t believe how many friends, that my 15 and 17 year old teenagers have, that are not taught how to survivie in the real world when they leave home. You are right on Target, and yes we love that store too! We have a deal that if my teenagers want an expensive gadget, phone, technology, etc. that they must pay half with their money and the rest will be paid for as Christmas, or birthday gift. The whole world seems to have a sense of entitlement these days, very sad. Parents want to hand their kids everything and what they really need is Godly guidance, conversation around the dinner table and our TIME and evening failing sometimes to really understand and learn from that! Loved reading this, keep up the great work at the most important job in the world, being their MOM!


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