A savvy shopper gets more for her money. Here’s how to help your girl be one.

Understand the difference between needs and wants

Your girl may want all kinds of things: new lip gloss, a chocolate milkshake, a charm bracelet, purple high-tops. But she doesn’t need them in the way she might need, say, a white shirt for the chorus performance or food for her hamster or a birthday gift for her dad. Remind her to be aware of the difference between needs and wants. Before she spends money on the optional things, be sure she has the most important stuff covered.

Comparison shop

Advise her not to buy the first item she sees. If she’s in the market for some socks, she should look at several different brands. How do the socks compare in style and quality? How about prices? Socks packaged at two for $5.99 are more expensive than socks packaged at four for $8.99, though if the socks in the four-pack seem thin and poorly made, they may not be the better deal.

Go for the bargains

Share this secret: go to the back of the store. That’s where the discount racks will be. She can ask about upcoming sales, too, because she can save a lot by waiting for things to go on sale, especially when it comes to big purchases.

Try it on for size

If she’s buying shoes, suggest she try on more than one size and walk around the store to be sure they really fit. If she’s thinking about buying a new pair of headphones, recommend that she borrow a friend’s. After two days of listening, she may have heard enough.

Do the homework

If she’s been saving for two years to get a computer, she wants to be sure she gets the best one her money can buy. Salespeople can be helpful, but their job is to sell things. Help her do her own research. She can even talk with people who have made a similar purchase to learn from their mistakes. Suggest that she check out websites and publications that do product research, such as Consumer Reports.

Avoid impulse buys

Advise her to take her time to think through purchases. While she may love that poncho at this moment, she doesn’t need it. If she puts it back on the rack and waits a few days, that “I gotta have it” feeling might pass and she’ll be glad she held off.

If you don’t like it, return it

Help your girl learn the habit of saving receipts and not removing the tags on something she’s bought for at least a day. Stores have different policies about returns and special rules apply to sales. But most of the time, the best fix for a bum purchase is to take it back.

Adapted from A Smart Girl’s Guide: Money, by Nancy Holyoke.
American Girl Publishing, 2014. All rights reserved.