The back-to-school season might make kids nervous, but it's no picnic for parents either. Retailers have pushed the explosion of Back-to-School as a shopping season in its own right, posting ads for Back-to-School sales as early as July. The last school year is barely over before every other TV commercial, retail window, and ad in the paper is pushing you to believe that Back-to-School shopping is not only a thing, but you'd be a crappy parent if you didn't buy your kids all new clothes, accessories, and school supplies.
So how serious is this idea? In fact, Forbes reports that "Back-to-School Season" is the second-highest spending season after the winter holidays. Is your head reeling yet?
Some more facts:
A 2016 projection from the National Retail Federation showed that parents expected to spend an average of $673.57 for back-to-school shopping for their kids in K-12. The bulk of the expense goes to clothing and accessories, accounting for 34.9% of total sales in stores, followed by electronics at 30.3%. The remaining are spent on shoes and the usual school supplies.
Now here's the deal. You're not a bad parent if you don't spend ridiculous amounts of money on getting your kid(s) all new stuff at the beginning of the school year. But you can't avoid the crunch either, and you want to make sure the little ankle-biters are ready to roll with the best of them when September comes. So here are our tips for saving the most money on your back-to-school shopping!
1. Take Stock of Everything You Have
Take stock of everything you have first, and only then determine what you'll need. If the goal is to cut down the cost of shopping, then only things that your kids genuinely need should go on the shopping list! Contact your child's school to find out what other school supplies are needed besides notebooks and pens. Depending on your child's grade, this might include specialized notebooks or craft materials. Check school policies on uniforms and dress codes.
From this list, do a quick inventory first of the items you currently have at home. There might be empty, unused notebooks, a box of pencils or crayons and coloured pencils still in good condition that can be used for the coming school year. Check how the shoes are doing, too. Do they still fit? Are they in good enough shape to last a few months more? If your child has to wear a uniform, do the same check. If there are tears or if seams can be let out instead of replacing the items, then take those pieces to get altered. This will be much cheaper than replacing them.
The goal is to streamline your list so that you only buy what's absolutely needed and use as many supplies as possible that you already have on hand. You can buy replacements later on in the year when the frenzy of back-to-school shopping is over and prices are back to normal.
2. Involve Your Kids in Setting the Budget
Dr. Pushpa Wood of Massey University says that "talking [with your children] about money [should be] no different to talking about how to keep healthy or how to keep safe when using the Internet. If your child thinks money is something that 'mum and dad get from a machine,' then they don’t know how hard their parents work to generate an income for the family and meet all of their expenses." You can learn more about talking to your children about money in our article on the subject.
Consider involving your kids in setting the back-to-school shopping budget. Huffington Post Blogger Samantha Kemp-Jackson explains that involving the kids in creating the back-to-school list can result in some "willing and compliant" shoppers. You might even teach your child a valuable lesson in spending.
Capital One also reasons that involving the kids in back-to-school budgeting can teach them the difference between needs and wants, and enlighten them about financial concepts like budget limits, priorities, and comparison shopping. This is important information at any age, but teens can benefit even more than younger kids. In just a few years they will be allowed to have credit cards, and they should be aware of basic budgeting and financial skills before heading off to college!
As you start drawing up the shopping list, talk with your children about setting limits for certain items. Kids always want specialty items like Disney backpacks, so a strategy could be to draw up a compromise. Let kids identify two or three specialty items in exchange for choosing cheaper versions of other items on the list.
When it comes to cell phones and gadgets, get the kids involved by letting them chip in or pay their share. Long-term cell phone contracts can be expensive, so talking with your kids and working out an arrangement that lets them pay their portion and other additional fees is an excellent way of teaching financial responsibility while at the same time softening the blow on your own wallet.