Money matters: Kids walk away without getting change

Do your kids know that they can get change when purchasing with cash? Maybe, maybe not. Consider this comment from a parent,  “While leading a book fair at my children’s school, most of the children purchased books, but walked away without getting change.”  Really?

Here are my three reasons why don’t kids know that you can (and should) get money back when you give a cashier cash that adds up to more than the purchase price.

  1. Kids don’t see cash in action as much anymore. They see swiping and writing.
  2. Credit cards, debit cards, and checks are more commonly used to make purchases. No change. Nothing but a paper receipt with numbers on it.
  3. Kids don’t know that at purchase time it’s all about the numbers. If the cash tendered equals a larger number than the purchase number the difference is returned to the buyer.

This all adds up to the reality that today’s kids don’t know how cash works.

Here are three things parents can do to help their kids understand how cash works. Hands-on experience with cash introduces and reinforces counting and math skills in a real-world seeing that makes sense to children. Doing activities with real money provides pattern recognition and makes math relevant to their daily lives.

Activity: Penny Exchange

For each child include a cash supply that includes the following: 100 pennies, twenty nickels, ten dimes, four quarters, a one dollar bill and a one dollar coin. (Half-dollar or 50 cent coins are still in use. You may mention this to your kids; it isn’t a coin they will see very often.)

Instructions: Have your child exchange pennies from the cash box for other coins. Start with nickels, then use dimes, quarters, dollar coin, and dollar bill.

Repeat the Penny Exchange until your child can accurately tell you how much each coin is worth in pennies. When your child has mastered this activity he will be able to say,

“Five pennies is the same as a nickel. Ten pennies is the same as a dime. Twenty-five pennies is the same as a quarter. One hundred pennies is the same as a dollar.”

For more money activities, see my book, The No-Cash Allowance.

Money Talk:  Shopping with cash

“This shirt cost $15.00. If I use a $20.00 dollar bill that amount is more than the cost of the shirt. The clerk will give me $5.00 in change.”

Show your child the cash you give the clerk and the change you receive. You can also point out these numbers on the printed receipt.

Hands-on practice: Play Store

Give your child a $5.00 bill to purchase a book that costs $4.50. Pretend you are the clerk and have your child ask you if they will get change or not.

Your child might say, “This book cost $4.50. If I give a $5.00 bill how much change will I get?”

As the clerk you would reply, “You will get $.50 in change.”

Reinforce this by writing the numbers on a piece of paper like a receipt to show the math.

$5.00 (cash) – $4.50 (purchase price) = .50 (change)

By doing some show and tell with money and numbers you help your child understand how money works. Not only are you and your child having the money talk, your child is also learning how to talk about money with other people.

Lynne Finch helps parents teach their kids about money from piggy banks to online banking. “It’s time to teach the kids how to manage money they can’t see or touch,” says the author of The No-Cash Allowance. Follow Lynne’s common sense approach for teaching children that money is a number with kids as young as pre-school and continuing through high school. 

Follow me on social media: