Shopping With Kids: A Terrible Combination

Shopping and kids make a terrible combination. Here is how I go shopping with my kids without losing my mind or temper. 

We’ve all seen it: the kid screaming in the store because they so desperately want the toy that is the only thing standing between them and eternal happiness. And the mother, red-faced and angry, is trying to complete her shopping while her kid is screaming and howling across the store.

Sometimes, you are that mother, and the only thing standing between you and eternal happiness is your kid stopping to scream. There are really only two options: give in to the kid or have a shopping trip from hell. Neither is ideal. This is only made worse if you cannot actually afford to buy the child the item.

Kids don’t really get that when it comes to bread vs. random action figures; then bread wins every time. They assume that they will be well-fed, no matter what. And it comes down to us, the poor parents, to make those difficult decisions (not). But no matter how tight money is, there is probably not a mother in the world who considered giving in to her child when that tantrum starts.

Two weeks ago, I had much less cash than usual. This meant no extra spending on anything. Since I am very strict about using my credit card (emergencies only- and that means medicine), I had taken my kids to the park, and I couldn’t deal with the inevitable walk home past all the lovely shops on the way to my house. Even without the possible tantrums, who can handle that look of longing and heartbreak on those adorable faces?

So I did something that I thought was pretty smart—I walked the long way around and missed all the stores entirely. It took longer, but hey, we can all use a little extra exercise!

How Do You Say “No” to Your Kids?

The best way is to avoid the situation altogether. Basically, I don’t take my kids to the store. Ever. No, this doesn’t mean I leave them at home with a babysitter or order everything online. This usually means early morning trips or very late store trips. Or waiting until my husband comes home or doing the shopping instead of me even though I don’t like the vegetables he picks out.

It’s difficult to organize this way, but it certainly beats taking my children shopping! And I save money this way! And please don’t take your kids to a really “fun” store if you are not planning/cannot afford to get them anything- it’s too hard for those little people to control themselves! You can take them if you plan to get one small (or big) thing for them. Make sure they know what they can get and what is expected of them. It is okay to have some room for little luxuries in your budget, and it is okay to teach your kids that… within reason.

When I take my kids to the store, a lot of preparation is involved.

4 Ways To Save Your Sanity When Shopping With Kids:

Set Expectations

I set out expectations beforehand, such as, “We are only buying milk and bread—nothing else,” or “We can pick out 1 treat—and I have to approve of it.”

Keep Them Engaged

I try to keep them as engaged as possible in what we actually have to buy in the store. I let them pick the items off the shelf. I offer options, such as red or green peppers. I have them hold the items that we are purchasing.


Before we get to the checkout (where enticing options are usually lurking), I remind them again: “We are not buying anything this time—only the milk and bread that we picked out” or “You already picked out one treat—we are not getting anything else.”


I praise them constantly for not complaining and making a big deal about their great behavior when we leave the store: ” Wow! I am so proud that you didn’t even ask for a toy!”

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Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.

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