Back to School Budgeting

Involving students, in back to school budgeting, teaches valuable life lessons.

Back to school shopping can be a teachable moment, when it comes to your children’s (or grandchildren’s) financial education. When I teach financial education, in our area schools, I talk to the students about putting needs before wants, not spending what you don’t have and prioritizing what you spend your money on. If your family is like most families, you likely have a budget and a limit of how much you can afford to spend on your kiddo’s back to school clothes and supplies. Trouble is, many kids want the expensive, name-brand, designer stuff and for many of us, that is not within our means.

Instead of waiting until you get to the stores and having a showdown over what they can or can’t have, or what you can and can’t afford, work together on a plan now. Set a budget and have a meeting to discuss what items are needed in order to start the school year, and what non-essentials can be moved to the bottom of the list or pushed back to a later date. For example, if your child outgrew his or her sneakers at the end of the last school year and you bought new ones this summer, are they still in good shape and do they still fit? Can they be worn for the first few months of school, negating the need to get brand new sneakers for September? Cross one thing off the list!

Try on clothes from last year, that are still in good shape. Offer to change up the look of that shirt by getting a new sweater to go with it, or by dyeing those jeans a darker color. You both may find that they need less than what was initially thought.

Set the kids up with links to the store sales fliers and instruct them to look for the best deals, to get the most for their money. Introduce them to the fun of thrift shopping and giving new life to gently worn items.

The same goes for school supplies. Maybe last year’s backpack just needs a good scrub down. Maybe it has not been emptied since June and you may find a treasure trove of pens, half-used notebooks, calculators, etc., in there and find you need to buy fewer items for the classroom than you originally thought. My son has been out of school for 5 years or more and I still have a stash of number two pencils and binder filler paper, which will last me another few years.

If your back-to-schoolers have money of their own and want to pitch in extra, to get some perceived must-have item, let them go for it. Children tend to take better care of items that they had to work for, and pay for themselves.

If you are fortunate enough to have a little extra cash, while out school shopping, consider picking up some supplies for families who are not so fortunate. We are currently holding a school supply drive and are also collecting food and personal care items, for the Tiger Food Pantry. The pantry is run out of Gardiner Area High School and is open to all MSAD 11 students and their families. Link to suggested items:

Remember, it is never too early to start teaching our youth, about budgeting and prioritizing their spending. If they learn these basics, when they are young, they should be more financially responsible as adults.

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