How to teach kids about money using the My Coke Rewards program
Soda? Soooo not good for kids**, and seemingly completely unrelated when figuring out how to teach kids about money.
Yet with most things that aren't “good” for us in life (hellooooo french fries!), there are ways to extract valuable nuggets from it.
For us, extracting “valuable” nuggets from my husband's/mother's Coca-Cola addiction loyalty has meant scoring Nike gift cards through Coke's loyalty reward program.
And for your child? It's using this same program to learn some pretty powerful money lessons.
But first, let's learn more about the program itself.
** your child does not have to increase soda intake to do these activities − see ideas below for how to get your hands on lots of caps without drinking any soda!
What is the My Coke Rewards Loyalty Program?
You've probably heard of the My Coke Rewards program (MCR). Coke developed it back in 2006, intending to increase loyalty (as if my husband needs another excuse to drink more Coke!). There are codes imprinted on most Coke products, such as under the caps or on the cardboard tear-away area of 12-packs.
You input these codes into their website, MyCokeRewards.com, and then redeem accumulated points for gift cards, merchandise, and sweepstake entries.
So what does this have to do with money lessons for your child?
4 My Coke Reward Money Lessons for Your Child
While inputting a bunch of codes the other day − thanks, Mom! − I realized there are some valuable money lessons to be learned through this program.
Some are more complex than others, so I've numbered them from easiest to grasp to most difficult.
Where to begin with your own child? Choose the lesson you'd like to reinforce with your own child based on either the questions or feedback they naturally raise while inputting the codes, or based on where their personal money development is at the moment.
Lesson #1: “Trash” Can Equal Cash
Products have end lives, and they don't have to be just the trash can. In fact, lots of “trash” still has monetary value you can extract from it.
And while kids have been learning about recycling for years (I remember thinking how hip it was when the trashcan on Mac desktops were replaced with a recycling bin), they probably don't understand the money value firsthand because it's the recycling companies reaping the extra bucks from the recycling process, not them.
After you family finishes drinking it, have your child go through the End Life Choices below. Talk to them about the pros and cons of each choice (suggestions are included).
Coca-Cola 2-Liter Bottle Lifecycle: The bottle is manufactured. The coca-cola liquid is made. The product is packaged. It ships to a retail store. The store sells it to a consumer. The consumer takes it home and consumes it. Now what?
Make a choice.
End of Life Choice #1: Trash the bottle + cap. Life ended.
Pros: This is convenient − just tossing it away.
Cons: There is no further value gained from the plastic bottle now that the product has been consumed.
End of Life Choice #2: Recycle the bottle + cap. This will reclaim some of the value of the product for a recycling company.
Pros: A recycling company will take this bottle + cap and create a new product out of it. That means that they will not have to pay as much to make the new bottle, and will earn money off of it. The bottle + cap will not end up in a landfill, where it will take awhile (approximately 450 – 1,000 years) to disappear from decomposition.
Cons: You need to separate this from other pieces of trash by putting it into a recycling bin for a recycling company to pick up.
End of Life Choice #3: Recycle the bottle + cap, and before you put the cap into the recycling bin, input the code into MyCokeRewards.com to earn points towards free gift cards and merchandise.
Pros: You receive some reward points that you can redeem for either cash or for merchandise. Plus a recycling company gets money from reusing your bottle.
Cons: It takes a few minutes to input the reward codes into the website where you get the points. Also, you need to separate this from other pieces of trash by putting it into a recycling bin for a recycling company to pick up.
Directions for entering reward points.
Step #1: Sign up for a free MyCokeRewards.com account with your parent by clicking the Sign In/Join button. You'll need to accept the Program Rules, as well as an email account.
Step #2: Confirm your account through a link sent to you by email.
Step #3: Sign into your account. In the upper right-hand corner of the website, find the box “ENTER CODES FOR POINTS”.
Step #4: Type the code located on your product in this box.
Step #5: Recycle the bottle + cap.
Lesson #2: Even as a Kid You Can Contribute to Your Family's Bottom Line
Sometimes kids want to feel like they are contributing and helping Mom and Dad. A lot of this depends on their age, of course, but in case yours is dying to throw their hat in the financial ring for the family, this lesson is for them.
Step #2: List 3-5 items that you think the household could use. What are the ways this product or gift card could help your family or a specific family member? Is it in place of actual spending your parents would need to do anyway? Or does it add to the overall enjoyment of things? Include your reason next to the item.
For example: in our family, my husband and I use all our Coke reward points to go towards Nike Gift Cards. That's because we know we can get a pair of new sneakers plus one or two more items every time we have enough points to redeem for a $70 Nike gift card.
Step #3: Discuss with your parents your ideas. Decide together which item you are going to save up all of your points to “purchase”.
Step #4: List out how many points you would need in order to get this product or gift card.
Step #6: Come up with a plan for how you will find Coke caps to earn this. See the list at the bottom of this article for ideas.
Step #7: Refer to the directions above in Lesson #1 for entering codes to start entering your codes. Check your balance each time you do. When you reach enough points to get the item you decided on, then redeem your points for this item!
Lesson #3: Time is Valuable
Time is money. Every day we sell our time, whether we earn $0/hour for it, or $500/hour for it.
Some activities are definitely worth earning nothing for, like family time, doing homework, being a kid, etc.
But some activities? Well, we're just piddling our time away on them with very little gain.
This has played out in my own life. Since I grew up on a family dairy farm − work between all of us was probably 12 hours per day for little income − I grew comfortable with selling my time for very little money. Because of my own experience, I encourage this activity early and often with your youngsters.
Chances are, your child is not old enough to work yet. So they can start to drive this valuable lesson home using the MyCokeRewards program to calculate their time/hour earned entering codes.
Exercise: Is Entering Reward Points Worth the Time Commitment?
Note: You'll need codes totaling 75 points to really do this lesson.
Step #1: Grab a bag full of Coca-Cola product caps, or as many as you can find (see below for ways to get your hands on a bunch without drinking lots of soda).
Step #2: Sign up for a MyCokeRewards.com account with the help of your parent. You'll need to accept the Program Rules, as well as have an email account.
Step #3: Wait until you have a significant amount of codes. What is significant? You can enter up to 75 points per week. So start with 75 points. For 2-liter caps, this translates to 25 of them.
Step #4: Set a timer and time how long it takes for you to insert 75 points. Record the amount of time in minutes. Record the number of points you entered.
Number of Minutes to Enter Codes: ______________
Number of Points Entered: ______________
Step #5: You need to figure out how much you are earning each hour by entering a code. In order to do that, you need to know how much a point is worth in terms of money. Why would a point have a dollar value? Well, you use points to redeem for things that cost money, like gift cards and tee-shirts. So we can estimate the value of each point because you are using a X number of points instead of X number of dollars to get something. For the sake of this activity, an estimated value of MyCokeReward points is $0.014/point (or 1.4¢).
Multiply the number of points you entered X $0.014 = $________ (dollar amount for the points you just entered).
Step #6: Now we're getting somewhere. You know how long it takes you to input a certain amount of points. And you know how much those points are worth in dollars. So how much are you essentially getting paid per hour by taking part in the MyCokeRewards program? Calculate your cost/hour of entering those codes.
Divide: $ the dollar amount your points are worth/ #of Minutes it took you to enter them.
Multiply: the amount from above X 60 minutes. $_______.
This is how much you are being “paid” per hour to enter the codes.
Step #7: Answer the following questions.
Does it seem like a good use of your time? Maybe it is a good use if otherwise you would be watching television or playing a video game. Maybe it's not such a good use of your time if you could be earning $15/hour doing something else.
You can choose how you spend your time. I know, I know, Mom and Dad and teachers choose how you use your time as well. But let's talk about an hour you get to yourself on the weekend or after school. What are three things you would rather do instead of earn that $X.XX/hour entering codes?
Remember, any activity you do can be “worth it”, even if you are paid nothing for that activity. That's because not everything is measured by money!
What you need to do is ask yourself whether or not it's worth it to you at the specific price point. So for the MyCokeReward points program, you might love finding and entering codes. Or perhaps you don't have a job or a way to earn items. If either of these are true, then you should probably keep at it.
Just don't do it without knowing where your time is going to and at what cost.
Lesson #4: It's Not Worth Consuming More Just for the Reward Points
Overly excited kids might get the idea that consuming more Coke will reap more codes, which will reap them more points.
In fact, Coca-Cola is banking on lots of adults changing their behavior in this way.
But it's important to curb their enthusiasm with a little dose of money realism.
The fact is, habits are expensive. I'm not saying you shouldn't have habits − you won't see me giving up my Iced Soy Chais anytime soon − but you should know what they cost and make sure that is something you:
a): can afford, and
b): want to make a priority
Increasing consumption to get more reward points is almost never a good idea from a money perspective (and probably from many other perspective as well). Let's really illustrate this to your child.
Exercise: Should I Consume More to Get the Rewards Points?
Step #1: Go to a grocery store with your parent, and write down the cost of a 2-liter bottle of Coke. If you can't go with them, ask them to write down the cost for you.
Step #2: Choose a reward from the MCR Rewards Catalogue. Write down how many points it will take to get this reward.
Reward = ________ Points
Step #3: Divide the number of points you will need in order to get the reward by 3 points (how many points you get for one 2-liter bottle cap). This will tell you how many bottles of 2-liter Coke you need to purchase or find in order to get this reward.
Points needed/3 points = ______ Bottles of 2-liter Coke needed
Step #4: Now, multiply that number of bottles by the cost of each 2-liter bottle of Coke.
Number of Coke bottles needed X $ Cost of each 2-liter bottle = $ Your Total Cost for that Reward
Step #5: Answer this question.
Do you think it is worth buying all of those bottles of Coke to get that reward?
Is it better to just purchase the reward in a store? Why or why not?
Suggestions for How to Obtain Soda Caps Without Increasing Your Child's Soda Consumption
If you're like me, then you know not just one, but TWO cokeaholics in your life. While we've whittled my husband's addiction down to just one 12-pack every other week (I think he's sneaking cokes at work), my mother is going strong since the 80s with her 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke.
So in our family, Mom is the source for soda caps. She collects them in bags, and twice a year gifts a bag to whomever is using the MyCokeRewards program (*ahem*, while that used to be both me AND my sister, it's now just me. Apparently I'm still trying to learn Lesson #3).
What if you don't have a cokeaholic in your inner circle?
Here are three other ways to obtain MyCokeReward points and get your child started learning those lessons:
Start a Collection at the Office: Ask permission to put a baggie or basket in your office's break room − preferably near the vending machine − and leave a note asking others to kindly leave their Coke product caps for your use.
Hit Up Your Kid's Team or Organization: Are you a team coach, Girl Scout Troop leader, or big in another organization with kids? If so, at meetings and events be sure to collect caps from others.
Ask Local Wholesale Users of Coke Products to Save the Points: I've got a coffee + bagel shop around the corner to our house. I go there periodically for an onion bagel, toasted, with cream cheese (ooh, lala!). About a year ago I noticed that they had the wholesale cartons of cokes and Diet Cokes sitting in the corner. So, I asked them if I could use their empty boxes and explained to them the rewards program. They were happy to hand them over!
Purchase Products Other than Soda: Coca-cola products you can use to participate also include brands such as Dasani water and Powerade. So you can still participate through purchases without having to up your family's soda intake.
Conduct a Google Search: Search using the term, “Free MyCokeRewards Point Codes”.
Well folks, that's it! Which lesson are you most excited about trying out with your kiddo? Get to it, and let me know in the comments below any “aha” moments they gained.
Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Amanda's kid money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Read more here.