Wasn’t it just the first day of summer? How can the stores already be sending back-to-school flyers? We feel your pain—it’s ours too!—but if you wait to shop your kids could end up with the dregs (remember the “settling for Anna folders when she really wanted Elsa”? You so don’t want to go there) and the sales will be over. Plus, think of the shock of having all your back-to-school stuff come out of one paycheck. Ouch!
But don’t worry! We have some great tips to manage back-to-school spending now so you can enjoy the rest of summer.
- Set a back-to-school budget. Include the items discussed below plus fees: book rental, sports, field trips, etc. Don’t know what to budget for? Look at your school’s website, there’s often a general list online.
- Have a money talk with your kids. You want your kids to understand money—how much things cost, the importance of budgeting, that credit cards aren’t “free.” School shopping is a great time to discuss all that and more in an age-appropriate way. Use a local store flyer to come up with a supply budget, less the cost of items you already have. Consider spending more on things kids will use a long time—like a “good” backpack and lunch bag in solid colors instead of this year’s cartoon favorite. Talk about which activities really matter to your kids and what your budget can or can’t afford.
- Go through your existing school supplies. Have a stash of school supplies in a closet somewhere? Find it and take an inventory. And look through the stuff your kids brought home at the end of last year. Chances are you’ll find supplies they can use again.
- Check their wardrobes. Do last year’s jeans still fit? And how many pairs do your kids really have? How about t-shirts, tennis shoes and other staples? Sure, it’s fun to have something new to “celebrate” back to school, but unless your child had a big growth spurt or is taking up a new sport or activity, you might not need to restock right now. And if they must have something now, because “everyone does,” they’ll die without it, etc.—revisit Step 2, challenge them not to follow the crowd (kids just love this suggestion!) and, if your budget can truly afford it, have them “pay” for the difference in something they want vs. something they need through household chores, babysitting, etc.
- Resist the temptation to sign up for new credit. You’re at the store, about to sign your life away for a cartful of stuff when you see it: the sign for 10% off if you get a store credit card. It’s certainly tempting, but be realistic. Do you want another credit card in your wallet? Will you buy more than you can afford? Is the $10-$15 you’re saving really worth it?
- Start saving with every paycheck. You probably have a few paychecks left before back-to-school bills arrive. Sock away a little from each one—with economies to make up the difference—so you can pay off your whole credit card bill when it arrives. And if you’re really disciplined (and, of course you are!) you could start saving NOW for next year!
You are truly going to own this new school year (but not yet—get outside already!).
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