Agency: Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District

Topic: Back to School, Shopping Wisely

Phone: 254-1424

Date: 8/1/99


Shop Wisely in the Back-to-School Sales

"Going out of businessÖlowest prices everÖeverything must go." The ads are many and theyíre always tempting, but never more than at this time of year when parents are faced with the challenge of getting children equipped to go back to school.

"There is a lot of press about retail closures, the bargains available and the other stores rushing to match prices," says Greg Elsby, Executive Director of Credit Counselling Service in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. "Even in a quiet year, the sales around the back-to-school season are almost as persuasive as at Christmas, with much of the advertising aimed at children ó particularly teens and pre-teens. With this yearís additional media attention around the possibility of once-in-a-lifetime bargains, families need to be especially careful to counteract the hype with some common sense planning.

Credit Counselling Service offers these simple tips to help you and your family avoid the hype, as well as to begin installing good spending habits in your children over the long term:

Make a budget and stick to it. Itís the golden rule of wise money management. "Thereís perhaps no better time than back-to-school when itís as important to stress to your children that needs should outweigh wants in determining spending priorities," says Greg Elsby. When it comes to clothes, take an inventory of what is on hand, what can be extended over the coming year and what new items are really needed. Build your budget around the needed



items, shop for the best deals and use any surplus to fund some of the wants. It is an incentive for children to think hard about the kinds of items ó or the labels ó they can "live with" in order to be able to have some of the things they "canít live without."

Involve children ó especially teens ó in the budgeting process. You will be developing good future skills and you will be helping them to take ownership of the choices and inevitable tradeoffs that will have to be made. When itís their decision, you are less likely (although not completely unlikely) to hear complaints after the fact.

Allow the children to use their own money to "trade up". If you are willing to pay $25 for suitable jeans, allow the child to spend their own money for the extra needed to buy "designer label" jeans if the name is important to them. "Make sure you donít let this get out of hand," says Greg Elsby. "Donít let your children cash in their entire bank account to be the best dressed kid in school. Nevertheless, this exercise can quickly and effectively show your child the very real costs of succumbing to peer pressure."

Postpone your back to school shopping until children really are back to school. This is especially true in relationship to store closing sales. If you wait, not only are you likely to get prices that are just as good ó or even better, but you will actually know what supplies you need, saving unnecessary expense. Donít forget, either, that you donít have to buy for the whole year at once. Take the time to shop around for the items that arenít needed right away and remember that the ongoing costs of clothing, supplies, school trips and the like should be part of your annual budgeting.

In building your back-to-school plan, donít forget about the expenses for extra-curricular activities. Music, sports and clubs often carry costs for equipment rental or purchase, uniforms etc., which must often be paid during the first week of school. September is also the time when most lessons, sports and other activities resume, along with their own registration fees, so donít forget to factor them into your familyís budget.


"With proper planning and the consideration of your children as partners in the back-to-school process," says Greg Elsby "you can focus on your real budgetary goals and needs, not those created by a sales opportunity, and give your family a valuable learning experience even before classes start."

"Helping you manage your debt" is a series of articles provided by member agencies of the Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services. All agencies provide a range of no or low cost services to help people solve their financial problems and improve their consumer and money management skills. For more information about credit counselling services in Sault Ste. Marie, please contact Credit Counselling Services of Sault Ste. Marie & District, 298 Queen Street East, Suite 2, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, P6A 1Y7 or visit our website at