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Tips for Teaching Your Kids the Importance of Wants Versus Needs

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Back to school shopping can provide a great opportunity to teach your kids a lesson about finances and the importance of "wants" vs. "needs." Here are some suggestions on how to get the conversation started when it comes to managing money and priorities.

Before making the trip to the mall, have your child clean their room and pull out the previous year's school supplies: This allows you to determine what he/she actually needs for the coming school year, as opposed to what would be nice to have. It also cuts down on the drama while you are in the store. Make a list that separates needs from wants, and talk to your child to clarify what the absolute needs are based on your available budget.

It's important to stay positive: Tell your kids that if they remain under budget, they could have extra money to purchase a few other items on the "wants" list. Budgeting is an important lesson to teach early on, and it's one that will serve your children well throughout their lives.

Focus on 'must-replace' items and encourage your child to earn money toward nice-to-have splurges: It may be better to replace a broken backpack and stick with a current laptop for another year if money is tight at the moment. If your child wants a new computer or cell phone but doesn't really 'need' it, then discuss ways they can earn money to put toward those pricey purchases.

Do your homework: Before hitting up the mall, remember to do your research! Go online -- there are many great parenting resources like Today's Parent, where parents share past experiences and shopping advice and find out what your child really needs for their age group. Needs shift as your kids move through elementary school, to high school, to post-secondary education, so make sure what you're getting is age-appropriate and can be reused down the road.

What suggestions do you have when it comes to teaching your child about the importance of wants versus needs? Let us know by leaving a comment below!