The Hidden Cost of Being a Parent: A 35% Increase in Shopping Expenses

What is the best way to shop with your kids? Leave them at home!

I’ve always said that the best way to save money when you have kids is to leave them at home when you shop. It’s better for your wallet and better for your mental health.

I wrote about navigating going shopping with kids (especially when you can’t afford to buy them anything extra) a few years ago, and now a new survey has just come out proving that leaving the kids at home when parents go shopping may save money. Vindication!

Shopping with kids costs American parents a whopping 35% more than shopping alone!

Shopping With Kids Is More Expensive

Commissioned by Slickdeals and conducted by OnePoll, the study of 2,000 US parents found that two in three parents said shopping with their kids tends to be more expensive than just shopping by themselves. Solo ventures cost an average of $133; meanwhile, shopping with kids costs an average of $179.

The poll revealed that for 65%, shopping solo allows them to buy different things from different stores than when their kids are around. When shopping alone, parents look for groceries (44%), beauty products (42%), electronics (40%), and clothing (38%).

Bribery Works

However, 35% claimed that shopping alongside their kids is like pulling teeth — and bribery is the answer for many. The survey found 44% of parents bribe their kids to behave while shopping. Eighteen percent said they’ve successfully bribed their kids with cash if they behave themselves. Kids were found also to be swayed by candy (37%), snacks (36%), and toys (34%). One in four bribing parents even claimed their efforts “always” work.

Important Lessons

“Shopping with kids appears to cost parents more, but there are valuable money lessons that can be learned through the experience,” said Louie Patterson, personal finance manager for Slickdeals. “Including your children in everyday shopping decisions and discussions about larger purchases is a great way to teach them the value of a dollar.”

In fact, the survey also found 59% of parents shop both online and in stores with their children. Many parents see shopping with their children as a chance for their family to bond — 44% prefer shopping in a physical store, and 12% prefer to bond while shopping online.

Shopping together was also found to give kids a chance to spend their own hard-earned money. Of the 61% of parents who give their children an allowance, 78% of them let their kids spend their money in whatever way they see fit.

Three in five (62%) turn the shared shopping experience into a lesson for their kids, showing them the value of a dollar (62%), the difference between necessities and nice-to-haves (58%), patience (50%) and how to look for deals (50%).

Respondents recommended starting these lessons with children once they’re nine years old.

“We were inspired by how many parents reported teaching their kids to look for deals,” added Patterson. “Tapping into the knowledge and insights of a community of millions of real shoppers like the one at Slickdeals is a great way to not only save money on your purchases, but also to better understand the depth behind what really makes a good deal.”

How To Discourage Tantrums When Shopping With Kids

Set Expectations

Tell your children what they can expect from a shopping trip before you leave.

I set out expectations beforehand: “We are only buying milk and bread- nothing else” or “We can pick out one treat- and I have to approve of it.”

Keep Them Engaged

I try to keep them as engaged as possible while we are in the store.

I let them pick the items of the shelf. I offer options- red or green peppers? I have them hold the items that we are purchasing. These are all ways to keep them from being bored and acting out. Kids enjoy helping adults with chores, so tell them what you are doing and have them be involved in the process.


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.”

Positive Reinforcement

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


This post originally appeared on A Dime Saved

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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.