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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Parents Can Teach Kids to be Smart Shoppers

LAS CRUCES -- Children spend millions of dollars each year on products like games and school supplies, but they don't always get their money's worth, said a New Mexico State University consumer education specialist.

Children are influenced by television, radio and magazine advertisements, said Susan Wright with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. Parents can teach them to make decisions about what's best as far as their money is concerned.

"Young shoppers need to learn to separate facts from fantasy. Fantasy exaggerates and leads to unrealistic expectations for children," Wright said.

Kids can learn to shop within their budget. By comparison shopping, they learn the difference between products and can determine if they really meet their needs, she said.

"Kids also have rights and responsibilities as consumers," she said. Parents, friends and other family members can share basic shopping tips with them.

Parents can teach kids the importance of saving sales slips and asking about return policies. Children have the right to return merchandise that is not satisfactory, but they're also responsible for using the product according to directions and caring for it correctly, Wright said.

"Surveys have shown that many teenagers are not well- prepared to make wise purchases," she said. "But, it's not too late to teach them how to manage money."

Before teens learn how to shop, they should learn how to save, Wright said. If teens develop a savings habit now, they will be more likely to continue that habit throughout life. Planning, developing and following a budget will help them stay out of debt.