Agency:          Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District
Topic:              Budgeting Back to School Purchases
Phone:             254-1424
Date:               8/29/01

Your Back to School Shopping Survival Guide

 September brings a fresh start to the school year and this means an increase in costs for  new supplies and clothes for students according to a recent poll.  Whether your child is kindergarten or high school bound, expenses can easily get out of hand if you don’t have a budget in mind before setting out for back to school shopping.  A little planning now can help stretch your spending funds and teach the students in your family good spending habits that will serve them well into adulthood. 

Credit Counselling of Sault Ste. Marie & District recommends the following tips to help you survive back to school shopping:

          Set a budget and stick to it.  This is rule number one of wise money management.  Make a list of what each child needs to begin their school year and build your budget around those items rather than on perceived “wants.”  We are all bombarded at this time of year with advertisements touting the latest sales and products.  Take advantage of these ads to compare quality and price, but stick to your list.

          Involve your children in taking inventory of clothes and supplies, and help them separate necessities from desires.  Preteens and teens can be tempted by aggressive ad campaigns for the latest “must have” fashions and school accessories, but if they have worked through a budget plan with you, they will be aware of spending limits and recognize that making trade-offs are part of the budgeting process.

          Allow your kids to use some of their own money to “trade-up” on certain items.  You can set a limit on what you will pay for new running shoes or jeans, and your children  can top that up with their own money if they want a pricier brand name.  This process will help them think more carefully about their spending habits and give them ownership over their decisions. 

          For older teens with their own part-time income, work out an arrangement that makes them more responsible for their expenses.  For example, you can agree to pay for needed items such as school clothes and initial supplies, leaving them in charge of replacements and creating and paying for their own “wants” list during the rest of the school year.  That expensive binder, computerized agenda organizer, or latest cell phone may suddenly lose its lustre when your teen realizes he has to pay for it out of his own pocket.  On the other hand, younger kids may be more than happy to clean out their savings accounts to get what they want, so you may have to step in to restrict their “top up” spending. 

          Postpone your back to school shopping until your children are actually back in school.  Not only are you more likely to get the same, if not better sale prices, you’ll avoid the crowds and the mad rush.  Waiting for teachers’ lists can also help you determine exactly what supplies are required and save you unnecessary expense.  Keep in mind that the ongoing costs of clothing, supplies and school trips should be a part of your annual budgeting.  You don’t have to buy everything for the entire year now.

          Don’t forget to factor in extra curricular activities into your budget plan.  Music lessons, sports and organized clubs usually resume when the school year starts in September and these carry added costs, such as registration fees, equipment and uniforms, etc.  Remember to include these expenses in your budget.

Be a back to school shopping survivor.  Take a little time to plan your budget and treat your children as active partners in the process.  In addition to saving your family money, the experience can be a positive, valuable learning experience for your children.