Back-to-school shopping may seem like an expensive chore, but it also offers several teachable moments, said Carol Young, Kansas State University Research and Extension financial management
"Ideally, parents might estimate annual school costs per student, divide by 12 and save that amount each month to cover costs without stressing the family's late summer budget," says Young. For example: Divide the estimated annual cost per child ($300) by 12 to determine a savings goal of $25 a month per child.
While that may be a good recommendation for next year, this year's school enrollment fees are coming due in the days and weeks ahead, and the pressures to spend are real. Children typically want what they think others will have, she says.
Stepping back and asking the kids to help you make spending decisions can be a lesson in money management. Even three-year-olds can understand concepts like "We can't buy everything, so we make choices" and "Once we spend the money, it's gone."
Before shopping, talk with your children so that each one has a clear understanding of the items needed and the amount of money available to cover costs, Young says. Learning to make choices --
some good and maybe some that aren't so good -- and learning to live with the results are important life lessons, she notes.
If, for example, if a child chooses to overspend for a trendy shirt or pair of shoes, he should understand that he will have less money to buy the other items on the list, she said. Counsel children, but allow them to make some of their own choices on items they feel strongly about. The results can often be good discussion for planning the next shopping trip.
You should also remind children that you don't need to buy everything all at once.
Young offers these other cost-saving tips:
Be sure to also track back-to-school expenses to help in planning savings to ease the back-to-school cash crunch next year. In doing so, be sure to add in extras: For example, just how much does it really cost you to eat out on the way to an out-of-town little league ball game? (To save there, Young suggests packing a picnic and share a ride.)
If a cash crunch is keeping you from donating the requested tissue boxes and dry-erase pens to your child's classroom, think about what else you could donate. There are many things that teachers
might want for art projects or to use as educational aids -- and they won't cost you a thing. A few ideas: glass jars, plastic tubs, egg cartons, scratch paper from your office, pinecones, seeds,
interesting leaves and flowers -- maybe even an abandoned old bird's nest you found nestled in the eaves.
Of course, your time is one of the most valuable contributions you can offer to your child's teacher: Help him or her organize paperwork, supervise class projects, chaperone field trips and otherwise assist. That way, the teacher will have more time and energy to dedicate to everyone's goal: Helping these kids learn and prepare for the future.
And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .
SheKnows is making some changes!