Every year, we remember just how expensive it is to go back to school. While we try to save on school supplies and stretch that clothing allowance, it all adds up quickly. In 2022, The National Retail Federation found that families whose children fall in the category of elementary through high school spent an average of $864.35 on back-to-school supplies including electronics, clothing, shoes, and regular classroom supplies. Back-to-school shopping is definitely deserving of a line item in the family budget. But there are ways to save this season, and you can use the time to teach your kids important lessons about money management along the way.
10 tips to help your family better manage back-to-school spending:
1. Make it a teachable moment
We often forget to teach our kids how to manage money. Planning for back-to-school expenses is a great place to start. Let them help you build a budget and prioritize the list - even picking out which items are most important (such as a new dress or that fancy backpack).
2. Organize your list together
When creating a budget, decide what you can afford upfront. Next, list out everything your child needs - from shoes to electronics - and break those items into wants versus needs. From there, divide them into "must buy new," "would prefer to buy new," and "can use existing."
3. Itemize supplies that can be reused
Go through leftover supplies from last year and potential hand-me-downs from older children. You may have more school supplies on hand than you think.
4. Share costs
If your children want expensive items that exceed the back-to-school budget, encourage them to find ways to earn money over the summer to pay for those items themselves.
5. Start early
If you're organized, you can spread costs over several months and even take advantage of seasonal sales. It also allows your children more time to earn money to help buy those more trendy items they want.
Price items at different stores, from major retailers to your local thrift shop, and fit the puzzle together in a way that works for your budget. Don't forget to search online and consider using price-comparison websites to save time. If you have multiple children or a neighbor with children, consider buying in bulk and dividing the supplies. This could offer big savings on school supplies alone.
7. Watch out for credit traps
It's nice to get a discount at the counter by signing up for a store credit card, but often these have high interest rates that'll come back to bite you. If you can't pay cash, say no. And don't be afraid to talk to your kids about your choice. Helping them understand when and how to use credit is one of the most valuable lessons you can give them.
8. Keep perspective
Kids lose countless items throughout the year from coats and hats to lunchboxes and calculators. Label everything and avoid maxing out your budget on items that are likely to get lost.
9. Splurge strategically
Allow your child to choose one thing that really matters. See tip #1 where you asked your child to prioritize those school expenses.
10. Reserve some budget
Inevitably, after your kids return to school, they discover a few more items they can't live without. Be ready! Your kids will enjoy knowing they have a small amount left to spend if they wish.