BeMoneySmart: Help Your Kids Resist Impulse Spending

When it comes to being Money Smart, impulse spending is our common enemy.

Every parent knows it doesn’t take long for children to learn that the best part of having money is spending it.

When it comes to being Money Smart, impulse spending is kryptonite: the enemy we all have in common.

If you don’t believe it, consider how much money you make in one year and how challenging it is to achieve your financial goals or make ends meet.

Now consider the fact that 90% of us make occasional impulsive purchases while 40% of all consumer spending is impulse buying. In grocery stores alone, 20% of all items are bought the same way: on impulse. And the younger the shopper, the higher the number.

It’s no wonder that when it comes time to wait in line, grocery stores squeeze us into narrow checkout aisles that are jam-packed with magazine headlines, cheap toys and every type of candy imaginable…right at our children’s eye levels.

Teaching our kids how to avoid the pitfalls of impulsive spending will help them make smart decisions their entire lives. There’s really no age that’s too young to learn about the dangers of impulse spending. With businesses and marketing professionals constantly dreaming up new and inventive ways to make any child with a dollar salivate, the right time to start is now. Here’s how.


Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But regularly talking about money is a great way to not only help your kids learn what money is and how it works, but how to develop a healthy relationship with it.

If you find these conversations difficult to start because your child is very young, try a more hands-on approach.

The next time you’re at the grocery store with your child, ask them if they know why items cost different amounts of money. Help them understand why you, as a parent, need to think about the price of each of the items you’re buying. Show them your shopping list so they can see how much time and effort went into it. You can even make a game out of shopping by involving your child in your grocery decisions.


Most of our lives are filled with moments that demand patience and restraint in the face of making impulse purchases.

But here’s the good news: that’s great parenting. Once you invite your children into your grocery shopping, you’ll find endless educational opportunities.

Show your kids how you avoid impulse spending temptations at the checkout. Use coupons in front of them. Commit to not buying things you don’t need or can’t afford, especially in your child’s presence. If you’re trying to decide on a purchase, include your child. Encourage them to help you weigh the pros and cons.

Here’s an old classic almost every child will find relatable:

“I wish I could buy that but I don’t have enough money.”


Kids crave responsibility. An allowance can be a useful way to empower your child with the opportunity to make their own financial decisions and accept the consequences that come with them.

What’s the right amount of money for your child’s allowance? That’s up to you. Allowances can come with their own challenges so it’s important to establish an allowance system that works for your entire family.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb for teaching a child the value of avoiding impulse spending: aim for providing your child with enough money to get some of what they want, but not enough to escape making tough decisions.

In other words, set the stage for impulse purchase decisions that mirror lessons and emotions grown-ups deal with daily.


And no, this is not the same thing as a bribe. Incentives and rewards establish frameworks, beforehand, that empower kids to make smart decisions. Bribes merely pay kids off in a given moment, with little to nothing valuable learned. Here’s an example:

“In our house, cleaning the attic earns $5.” vs. “If you’ll clean the attic like I asked you to, I’ll give you $5.”

See the difference? Here’s a fun, educational activity that puts an incentive and reward framework into action:

When at a shopping location together, give your child a designated amount of money to buy something, like a piece of candy or small toy. Tell your child that they are going to be in charge of buying what they want with the money you’ve given them. And here’s the fun part…

Inform your child that whatever they don’t spend, they get to keep for the next time you come back or for any other reason. It’s a great way for your child to learn the ups and downs of spending impulsively vs. having money in their pockets. You may even learn a few things about your child along the way.


Like anything worth doing, helping your kids learn to avoid impulse purchases requires practice. Lots and lots of practice. After all, this isn’t just about making isolated financial decisions. It’s about empowering your child with a lifetime of smart, financial behavior.

Fortunately, you’re not alone. UCCU’s award winning BeMoneySmart program offers a lot of enjoyable ways to incentivize and reward your child’s smart spending and savings habits.

For example, when you open a SmartSaver Rewards account for your child, UCCU will give your child their very own SmartSaver Rewards deposit card. Every time your child makes a deposit (regardless of the amount), UCCU will punch the card, moving your child closer and closer to cash rewards.

The more deposits your child makes, the better the reward, giving your child more reasons than ever to avoid the temptations of needless spending.

For older kids who need a little extra motivation (like your teenager), consider opening a BeMoneySmart checking account that comes with its own VISA debit card. And before you drop this article in terror, consider this: a debit card enables you, as a parent, to monitor every transaction your child makes. You certainly can’t do that with cash. Monitoring and discussing your teenager’s spending can be an essential step in helping them learn to curb impulse spending on their own.


The more you work with your kids now, the better equipped and more empowered they’ll be to resist pointless spending for years and years to come. And whenever you need a little (or a lot) of help, we’re ready.

UCCU’s BeMoneySmart youth banking program is a fun and free resource that can help every child in your family learn to make smart decisions and master their spending and savings.

And for your kids who are skeptical about education being fun, you can simply watch The Smart Family, a short web series that follows one family’s hilarious adventures to becoming Money Smart. Every video is short, funny, and educational.

But don’t worry. We won’t tell your kids if you don’t.

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