Learning to be a conscious consumer is an integral part of financial literacy and an essential life skill. It requires kids to think critically about the information they are presented with before they spend so that they can make informed decisions with their money. Here's what they need to know.
How do you explain consumerism to a child?
Consumerism is the practice of buying and consuming goods and services. To make it an easy concept for your child, talk about how consumerism is fuelled, such as ads on TV, social media and online. And discuss everything you buy as a family, including bills, on birthdays and at Christmas. This will help them to see consumerism in practice and encourage them to think more responsibly about how they spend money.
At the same time, you can also talk to your child about how consumerism can lead to waste, using age-appropriate examples such as the amount of household food that ends up in the recycling bin, or fast fashion going to landfill. Using real-world examples like this can help kids develop a more mindful and informed approach to consumption.
How to teach kids to be conscious consumers
Help your kids learn value
Start by talking to them about the difference between needs and wants. Explain that wants are things we would like to have but don't necessarily need. Needs are things that we need to survive and thrive. Next, encourage them to compare prices before they buy something. This will help them to see which product is the best value for their money.
Explain how marketing works
Explain to kids that marketing aims to get people to buy a product or service. Marketers do this by creating a sense of need or desire for their products and making them seem like good value for the money. This means they use words like ‘new,’ ‘improved,’ and ‘limited-time offer.’ They also use images and videos to make their products look exciting and desirable.
Talk about the importance of being conscious of these tactics, as marketing messages aren't always accurate (especially on social media). Sometimes, marketers will use misleading or exaggerated claims to make their products sound better than they are. It is important for kids to be aware of this and to think critically about the marketing messages that they see and hear.
For example, a sports company may run an advert that shows kids wearing new trainers. The ad might say, ‘The new and improved limited edition trainer is out now. Join the waiting list.’ The goal of the ad is to make kids think this trainer is unique and worth having because they'll have to be on a waiting list to get something very few people have.
Get into the habit of taking your kids grocery shopping and let them help you choose items. This is a great way to teach them about marketing and get them to compare prices and find the best deals.
Let them spend their pocket money
The best way to help kids understand being a conscious shopper and value for money is to give them pocket money and allow them to make decisions. For instance, if they ask for a toy or a treat, suggest they buy it with pocket money. This makes them think twice before spending and allows them to experience the consequences of their choices.
If they buy something that is not a good value, they will learn from their mistake. Having real-world experiences like this is a good way for kids to discover that it's important to think before you spend and ensure you use your money in the best way.
Talk about the influencer-effect
Social media and influencers have an enormous impact on kids and their desire to buy products. Forty-five percent of Gen Z respondents named TikTok and Instagram as the top platforms influencing their purchasing decisions, followed by YouTube (38%), Facebook (24%), Snapchat (17%), Twitter (14%) so have regular chats with your kids about the way influencers promote products. The ASA's research on labelling influencer marketing found that most people struggle to identify when social media posts by influencers are ads; at a minimum, such content should include a prominent 'ad' label upfront (which usually means 'at the beginning') to highlight that a post is a marketing communication. Once your child spots this, they should view what's being said more cautiously.
Discuss being a conscious consumer for ethical reasons
Conscious consumption can also mean getting your kids to think about the environmental and social impact of their purchases. For example, they might choose to buy products made from recycled materials or produced in fair trade labour conditions. This can help them develop a sense of social responsibility. For example, they might buy products from companies that give back to their communities or support sustainable practices.
Tips for parents on conscious consumerism
Lead by example
Children watch everything you do, so be sure to be a good role model in consumerism. Show your kids how you make purchasing decisions. Talk to them about the factors you consider when buying something, such as price, how much you want it, whether it will last and whether you have enough money to buy it.
Take every opportunity to educate
Take them to the supermarket with you and get them to spot how many labels there are offering deals such as '2 for 1', ‘new,’ ‘improved,’ and ‘sale.’ Work out whether something is a deal or not. Use shopping events like Black Friday and seasonal sales to discuss how advertising is used and whether something is still a bargain if you don't need it.
As a family, be mindful of your consumption
Set limits on consumption. Decide how much you are willing to spend on certain items, such as food or clothing and streaming services and work to save money as a family. A good way is to encourage your kids to have savings goals that steer them away from spending and into delaying gratification for something they want.
Teach kids about money management
Research shows that over half (51%) of people who received financial education as a child have up to £5,000 in cash savings compared to 40% of those who didn't receive financial education. If you want to help future-proof your child's spending habits and get them to be sensible consumers, it pays to teach them about money and how to manage it.
5 characteristics of a conscious consumer?
They are informed: They are aware of the different social and environmental impacts of different products and services. They make their purchasing decisions based on this information.
They choose wisely: When purchasing, they choose products and services they've researched for price.
They understand advertising: They know when something sounds too good to be true or when they are being lured into spending by an advert.
They think before they spend: They know how to consider the value of a product based on price and how much they want it.
They know how to delay gratification: They understand it's worth waiting for something they want and are willing to save to reach goals.
Help your kids learn about consumerism with GoHenry
GoHenry's mission is to make every kid smart with money thanks to a range of great features that help kids safely and securely learn about money, from saving to smart spending. In-app Money Missions makes learning about money fun and engaging with videos and quizzes covering everything from the value of money to budgeting. Parents can support their kids through the GoHenry app by setting flexible parental controls and receiving real-time spending alerts whenever they use their GoHenry prepaid kids debit card.