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Confusing commerce
Do you explain buying to your kids? Commerce is just downright confounding to children.
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My first econmics experience was when I was about 6 years old and was finally allowed to walk with my Gradmother up the main road to do the daily shopping. Browsing along the main road, all the hawkers greeted my gran and signalled what delicacies they had going cheap at "Rend-a-baaeg; Rend-a-baaeg". We stopped at the hawker who sat outside Diskom and I watched as she picked through his produce till she found what she was looking for.

She took out a big shiny one Rand coin. (At the time they were as big as my preschooler-sized palm and I had only gotten them before from the tooth hoarding mouse or perhaps my aunts who visited from time to time.) She handed the treasure to the man on the side of the road and in her wrinkled hand he placed a one cent piece – and a butternut!

A butternut! No, Mamma! There are sweets on those crates over there!

Pumpkin-hating preschooler that I was, I couldn't understand why she would swap a Rand for a Cent and… a… Butternut!

But Mamma smiled at me, bought some sweets (with the remaining 1c) and held my hand as we crossed the road.

I remember wondering what had just happened. It seemed like such an unfair swap – lots of money for vegetables. But like then, even now most adults don't explain commerce to kids. They assume that they are picking it up from watching what goes on around them – but does that mean that they understand it? What about cases where parents pay for things online or via debit or credit cards? Children don't actually see money exchanging hands anymore – purchasing must be puzzling to a preschooler.

At the moment, the credit crunched family needs to spend more time talking to tots, tweens and teens about money.  And that means changing the way we look at what we do with money around our kids.  So clear up confusion in kids by talking to them about transactions. It seems this is the best way to ensure they're not making too many money mistakes. Financial fitness guru Suze Orman insists that the "single most important step in raising a money-wise child is simply for parents to be money-wise adults themselves". She even recommends paying your kids a salary – not an allowance – and making sure they know that ATMs are not magic money trees.

The more money-wise kids we have now, the more cash savvy consumers we'll have taking care of the economy in the future.

Hmm… sweet butternut fritters for supper anyone?

How do you guide your kids through their baffling budgets and money mad credit crunch?

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