The Tale of Two Cans of Olives – Everyday Money Lessons

Here’s a simple story about buying olives and comparison shopping. It is a wonderful reminder to use everyday experiences to teach kids about money – no matter how frustrating it may seem at the time! 

Yesterday, my six-year-old son (Little I) and I were at the grocery store in the condiment aisle. “Next on the list, large black olives,” I read from our shopping list. “Would you like to pick them out?” I asked Little I.

“These!” Little I said with enthusiasm, grabbing the most expensive can of large black olives from the shelf.

Whoa there buckaroo, I thought. 

“These are $2.00 a can.” I said.”Let’s look and see how the others compare.”

“Here is a can of the same large black olives for $1.00. Which can costs more?” I asked.

“The one that costs $2.00.” Little I answered.

“So, if the cans of olives are exactly the same, and one costs $2.00 and the other costs $1.00, which can should we buy?” I asked.

“I like this one better,” Little I said, pointing to the $2.00 can of fancy, name brand olives.

“Let me get this straight,” I clarified. “You want to pay double for this can of olives?”

“Yes,” Little I explained. “See, this can of olives has a nice label. I like the logo with the olives on all the fingers. They just look like they taste better.”

I see an older woman smiling as she navigates her cart around us while we debate…

“Tell you what,” I said. “We can buy the $2.00 can of olives if you spend $1.00 from your savings and I spend $1.00 from my grocery budget. Then is it worth it? Or, maybe we could buy both – you buy the $2.00 can and I’ll buy the $1.00 can and we can have a taste test?”

“Hmm…” Little I said, placing the cans side by side to look at them on the shelf.

Long. Full. Minute. Of. Thinking.

“Nah.” Says Little I. “Let’s just buy the $1.00 can.”

Atta-boy, I thought. (Though, in hind-sight, I kind of wish we would have done the blind taste test to see if there really was a difference!)

Money Lessons for Kids (and for Me)

This simple incident was just as much a money lesson for my son as it was a reminder for me that:

  • Comparison shopping is not always straight-forward
  • Sometimes, value is worth the price (though not always)
  • Visuals (and marketing) make an impact – for six-year-olds and for all of us!


What ways are you teaching your kids about money? I’d love to hear your questions or comments. Leave a comment below!

every day money lessons for kids - raising savers

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