You Bought What?! A Tween Economics Lesson

That moment when you log into the lunch account… and realize your tween has disregarded your advice to not abuse the freedom of the à la carte lunch menu in middle school!

Middle school opens up a whole new paradigm of yummy treats your adolescent can add to the lunch account without parental oversight, or even exchanging cash.  Chips, cookies, and Izze Pops abound! All seems well, and the sugary debauchery continues for several months until that fateful email arrives that alerts you to a zero balance on the lunch account.   A quick online audit of activity reveals that our tween was indulging in the over-priced treats.

izzeThat was the conversation this week at our household. We’d asked our tween to stick with hot lunch and milk, or pack her own lunch at home; but it was clear the temptation of Izze Pop was winning the battle. As a family who sticks to a budget, we were mind-boggled how she was blowing the equivalent of a Subway meal at school while poor dad, a grown man, was eating a bowl of cereal for lunch at his desk to save money.

We decided that we needed to have a consequence that was more of a teachable moment. So when Avery returned home after a weekend at her mom’s, that’s just what we did.

Economics Lesson: How Far Can Your Dollar Go? 

First we itemized all the treats to show her what she had spent. Then it was time for her to cough up the $18.00. This $18 was used to teach her the value of the dollar in the grocery store. Our $18 bought her 10 treats. We wanted to show her why we didn’t want her to buy the school snacks and use her own money to learn this lesson.

We headed off to our local grocery store as a family. She has her $18 in hand and the list of what she bought during school lunch time. It was time to see what she could buy for that same amount.capri

The biggest cost item was the Izze drinks. At school they were $1.75 for a small can. We headed that way and when we got to that section Avery confessed she didn’t really even care for the Izzy drink and was happier having Capri Sun lemonades. We threw those in the cart and headed to the chip aisle.

Avery was enjoying $.60 chips at school. We found a sale at our grocery and were able to buy 32 bags of chips for $10.99. We got out the calculator to show her that these same chips were only costing her $.34, half the price!

Next it was to the cookie aisle where we again looked for sales. Her cookies at school cost $.80 while the Oreos she wanted were $3.49 and would provide many more servings.

avery store

She’s was a good sport, despite being annoying by our parenting!

With her remaining $1.50 she decided she wanted doughnuts. This provided a great lesson about the bakery produce at the end of the day. At night those fresh doughnuts were now half-priced. Turns out Avery didn’t even know that they were made fresh each day at the store!

In the end we walked home with a bundle of junk food. Overall, for the same price we found she was able to get 4x as much as she did at school!

As she tucked these treats in a safe, secret spot (not wanting to share with her brother’s cold lunch) we hoped she had gained a valuable lesson about money and hopefully this will lead to no more extra charges on the lunch account.

Now maybe our next lesson should be on nutrition!

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3 Responses

  1. Kelli

    Such a brilliant idea!! You can even teach the nutrition lesson in the same way… x amount of calories can get you one junk food item or and abundance of nutrient dense foods! Thanks for the ideas!!

    1. Thanks! I was also thinking of just a picky eating challenge with both kids. I wanted to take them to the store and have them find foods they are willing to try. Could be an interesting trip to the store as well.

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