Parents shell out big bucks for school supplies

Don’t break the bank, credit counsellors warn

By Brain Kelly

The Sault Star

      When it comes time to buy back-to-school supplies and clothing for their children, many parents could benefit from an old teacher’s adage.

      Prepare ahead of time and don’t leave things to the last minute.

      But, many parents do just that.

      “We certainly find that people don’t plan enough for (back to school shopping),” said Greg Elsby, executive director of the Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District.

      That lack of preparation can mean paying high interest rates on unpaid credit card balances, coughing up too much for items that may be cheaper at other stores or purchasing goods your son or daughter doesn’t really need.

      With the start of elementary and high school classes just four-days away, parents should sit down with their children and compile a list of necessary school supplies, not wants, before even thinking  about stepping inside a store.

      A definite maximum budget dollar figure prevents money management problems, said Elsby.

      “You’re better to stick to a limit on what you want to spend”, he said.

      “When you’re using a credit card, it’s easy to over spend because you’re not limiting yourself to a certain amount.”

      If your son or daughter attends high school and has a part-time job, parents should consider asking him or her to contribute towards the cost of school supplies, but especially new fashions.

      “The older they are, the more expensive things get with clothing,” said Elsby.

      “Once they start contributing, they realize the difference in cost between getting something generic and brand name.”

      Canadian parents surveyed earlier this month said they planned to spend an average of almost $1,100 on back-to-school clothes, binders and other supplies for their children this year.

      Leger Marketing, which did the survey, found families plan to spend $391 on school supplies and $707 for clothes for elementary and high-school students.

      It’s a major expense, similar to Christmas gifts and automobile repairs, and parents should put aside some money each month towards the expected cost.

      “Living expenses are things that you should always be able to pay for in cash,” said Elsby.


      “If not, it means you’re spending more than you’re making and you’re going to start getting into trouble

      The Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District offers the following back-to-school shopping tips:

·        Set a budget and stick to it.  Make a list of what your children really needs for school.  Watch store ads to compare quality and price;

·        Have your children help take inventory of their clothes and supplies, and help them separate necessities from desires.  If they assist with the budget plan, they will be aware of spending limits and learn that making trade-offs part of the budgeting process;  “You can’t start too young on getting your kids to understand the value of money,” said Elsby;

·        Allow your children to use some of their own money to trade-up on certain items.  For example, you can set a limit on what you will pay for a pair of running shoes or jeans.  Your children can top it up with their own money if they want a particular brand;

·        Older teens with part-time jobs should be more responsible for their own expenses.  Parents may want to offer to pay for needed items such as school clothes and initial supplies;

·        Consider postponing back to school shopping until your children and back in school.  Crowds may be smaller and prices may be cheaper.  Teachers may have additional items they want their students to have;

·        Consider the cost of extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs and music lessons registration fees and budget accordingly.


A survey released Thursday by Visa Canada and the Retail Council of Canada found many shoppers are buying later this year compared to past years.

Popular sellers this year include gel pens, glitter glue, knit tops, sweaters and blank compact discs.

The Credit Counselling Agency of Sault Ste. Marie & District is a United Way member agency that helps area residents with money management and good credit use.