Money Moment: Back to School Savings

By Dr. Jennifer Hunter

Dr. Jennifer Hunter

Welcome back to Money Moment with your host Dr. Jennifer Hunter. In episode 14, Jennifer discusses back-to-school shopping on a budget.

Book bags, binders, and lunch boxes line the aisles of our local stores. Many retailers have started running back-to-school shopping ads and many school districts have started planning for back-to-school needs. If you have children in school you know to plan for these expenses, however they may not be part of your regular budget. You can reduce your back-to-school stress and expenses by developing a budget prior to heading out to your local retailer, just as you would for holiday shopping. Planning in advance gives you time to shop for specific items you need at the right price.

Discuss needs and wants with your kiddos

Start by preparing your back-to-school shopping list. Prioritize school shopping by listing items in order of importance. Talk to your children about the difference between needs and wants. Develop a budget based on true needs. If you still have additional funds available then you can allocate some money to things family members want. This is an important conversation to have with our kiddos prior to going shopping. It is important that they understand the budget and how much they have available to spend on their school shopping needs.

Pay with cash

You are less likely to overspend and stay within your budget if you pay with cash, so leave your credit cards at home. Shopping with a credit card is convenient but since there are no immediate consequences for using it, you are more likely to spend more. If you use cash, once all of it is gone your shopping trip is finished, making you more likely to prioritize those needs over wants.

Prepare a list

Start with the class supply list and inventory any items that you may already have at home or from last school year, such as backpacks, folders, paper, and so forth. Identify items on the list that you need to purchase and look for retail sales ads in your local newspaper or on the Internet. Many retailers have large discounts on class supplies to entice you to visit the store. Take your list with you and only purchase items on it.

Think long term

If you are shopping for items such as a backpack or lunchbox, it might be a good idea to think about picking an item that would last for several years. So instead of picking a backpack that has your child’s favorite cartoon character on it, for this year maybe choose one that is just flowers or hearts or sports themes: something that might last a few more years than the favorite cartoon character.

Jaimie Duplass/Photospin

Take stock of clothes closets

Back-to-school is a good time to inventory clothes closets. Identify clothes that have been outgrown or your child will no longer wear. Consider taking clothes that are in good condition and still in style to a local children’s consignment shop. Selling clothes at a consignment store may earn you a few extra dollars and many consignment retailers offer buying discounts to sellers. To learn more about buying and selling at consignment shops, be certain to listen to Money Moment episode 6.

Shop seasonally for clothes

Check with your child’s school to determine if the school has a dress code, then inventory the items that your child needs to start the school year. Certain items can wait until later in the year. For example, you probably do not need to purchase a winter coat in August. By dividing school clothes shopping over several months, you spread out the expenses.

Give kiddos a budget

Prior to going out shopping for clothes, talk to your children about the budget that you have available to spend on school clothes. Consider telling children that if they want to purchase items that are more expensive than what was budgeted for, they will need to pay the additional cost with their own money. I have found this as a great strategy with my older son, because when it comes to spending his own money, he is not nearly as interested in the high-dollar items!

Think green

Consider these tips to save money and be more environmentally friendly when preparing for this new school year. Invite family, friends and neighbors to a swap party. Ask guests to bring gently used items that they no longer want, such as accessories, purses, book bags or even clothing and shoes if your guest wear similar sizes. At the event, trade items with the things that your friends brought. Reuse backpacks, binders, notebooks and other supplies for previous years, instead of buying new. Buy supplies such as paper and notebooks made from recycled materials. Save household materials such as shoe boxes and paper towel tubes for school craft projects.

Pack a waste free lunch

Use reusable containers and utensils, buy nonperishable foods in bulk, and avoid individually wrapped snacks, disposable forks, spoons and straws. If you eat a school lunch, take and use only what you need: one napkin, one ketchup packet, one salt packet and so on. Remember to recycle cans and plastic bottles if possible.

The beginning of the school year is always a fun and exciting time of year. Keeping your family budget in mind while back to school shopping will help get the year started off on the right foot.

Join us for the next episode as Jennifer talks money tips for your college-bound student.

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