Back to school means expenses! Clothes, shoes, and school supplies can drain a budget quickly. According to The National Retail Federation, the average family with school-aged children spends $674 on back-to-school items–clothes, shoes, supplies, and electronics–each year. It’s no wonder setting a budget is essential for all parents with school-bound youngsters.
To avoid falling into debt at back-to-school time, plan ahead for how much you want to spend. You also may want to budget for the changing technology of school supplies. More classrooms are using computers and computer-related study materials. And with many electronics now somewhat affordable to most families, classrooms may be requiring or recommending tech-smart supplies and materials.
Remember that you don’t need to pay a fortune for school supplies if you shop smart. Smart shopping goes beyond setting a budget, coupon-clipping, carefully picking your stores, looking for sales, and comparing prices. Those are the basic prerequisites to smart shopping. Smart shopping also takes advantage of teaching moments for your child. Do this by involving your child in making a back-to-school shopping list. Ask your child’s school or teachers for a list of the supplies they will require this school year, and use it as the starting point to creating your own list—together.
- Teaching moment: Your child learns the importance of organizing.
After listing the items required, ask your child if they have any other “wants” for the list, as your child and you negotiate the extras.
- Teaching moments: Working within a budget, setting priorities, managing money, and saving for the items that don’t make it into the budget.
Your shopping list is still a work in progress at this point. Next step: Take inventory of what you already have around the house that can be reused. Help your child redecorate last year’s plain notebook with stickers or photos. Use big sister’s left-over pencils instead of buying new ones.
- Teaching moment: Recycling is trendy and fun, especially if it buys you a “want” that otherwise wouldn’t have been in the budget.
When it’s time to shop, draw on the skills you learned in Shopping 101 and begin to model them for your child. Help your child decide when quality is important and when you can let it go. Example: A backpack with a warranty costs more but it’s a good investment. On the other hand, math teachers advise that you don’t purchase a calculator with more functions than your child will use.
- Teaching moment: Savvy shopping is worth the effort. It can save you a bundle of money.