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

Topic: Budgeting Back to School Purchases

Phone: 254-1424

Date: 8/1/99

Budgeting Helps Avoid Back to School Buying Blues


Itís the week every parent both longs for and dreads. After a long summer, most families are glad to see their children back into the routine of the school year. Along with the return of the routine, however, comes the reality of equipping your children to learn, play and stay warm and acceptably dressed for the next 10 months.

"Advertising around the back-to-school season is almost as persuasive as around Christmas," says Greg Elsby of the Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie. "Much of it is aimed at children ó particularly teens and pre-teens ó emphasizing the need to have the latest and greatest clothes, shoes and supplies. Counteracting the hype with some common sense planning is important not only in spending your own money wisely this season, but also in installing good spending habits in your children over the long term."

Greg Elsby offers these simple tips to help you and your family avoid the back-to-school spending blues:

Make a budget and stick to it. It's 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 budget 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.

Following along with the needs versus wants thinking, allow the children to use their own money "trade up". For instance, if you are willing to pay $25 for a suitable sweatshirt, and the child would like a "name brand" sweatshirt, permit them to spend the extra from their own money. "Itís important to make sure this doesnít get out of hand," says Greg Elsby. "You donít want your children to be cashing in their life savings to be the best dressed people 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. Not only are you more likely to get better prices, but you will actually know what supplies are required, saving you unnecessary expense. Donít forget, either, that you donít have to buy for the whole year at once. Take your time to shop around for the items that arenít needed immediately and remember that the ongoing costs of clothing, supplies, school trips and the like should be part of your annual budgeting.

In developing your back-to-school plan, donít forget that clothes and supplies arenít the only expenses. Extra-curricular activities (music, sports, clubs) often carry costs for equipment rental or purchase, uniforms etc., which must often be paid during the first week back. 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 "your family can have a valuable ó and profitable ó learning experience well before classes begin."

"Helping you get out and stay out of 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