With August almost over, September is quickly on its way. If you haven’t noticed them yet, you will start to see them cropping up all over town, on-line, and on your TV. Back to School season is in full effect. With it comes the yearly ritual of heading off to the local big-box stores to restock on last year’s school supplies.
Whether you are the parent or guardian of a student going into elementary school for the first time or a student heading off to post-secondary, Back to School shopping can bust any well build budget if you aren’t careful.
Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie and District offer the following tips to help stretch your Back to School budget this year.
Take inventory: Look at what supplies your children have left over from last year. Does your child still have unused supplies from last year or a pencil case that is still useable? What about clothes? Do last year’s sneakers and jeans still fit?
Taking an inventory is also a great opportunity to reduce worn out items by selling, donating, repurposing, or throwing out what doesn’t fit or work anymore. Understanding what you already have can help you make a list of things your child actually needs.
Shop with your children: Back to school shopping is a great opportunity to teach fundamental money management skills. Give your older children a clear budget and list and let them guide the shopping process, letting them know that they have to get everything on their list while staying within budget. This will help teach them the idea of opportunity cost, if you spend money in one area you are taking money away from another, an important element of budgeting and money management.
With younger children, allow them to hold the list and help you find the items. Explain the purchasing process, don’t let them just see you pay with debit or credit, but explain how that process works. When a child only sees adults using cards they don’t fully grasp where the money is coming from, especially when put on credit.
Think of postponing shopping: In some cases it may be in your best interest to postpone the majority of your back-to-school shopping. Clothes for kids and teens tend to go on further discount at the end of September as do many office supplies.
Also, by delaying your back to school shopping you will have a better understanding of what your child really needs for the coming school year. There is no need to buy a mathematics set if your child won’t have use for it that school year.
Plan your technology purchases carefully: For students going into high school or even post-secondary, many will be looking for a new computer. This is a great time to discuss needs and wants. Have your child make a list of what they need out of a computer and what they want out of a new computer. With this list, head off to the computer stores and look at a number of different options. If your child is drawn to a machine that is perceived as cooler than others, see how many of the must haves it checks off from the list they created. If it doesn’t meet their needs then encourage them to keep looking.
When buying new technology for your child, try to remember that what is new today may be obsolete in 2-3 years. The lifecycle of technology is compressed in such a way that what you buy for your child going into grade 9 may have to be replaced by the time they reach grade 12, or sooner. For your post-secondary student it may be obsolete before they are done their program.
Tablets are quickly becoming the go to device for many students. Weigh the pros and cons of a tablet only experience for your child. Many tablets do not have the same capabilities of a full-fledged computer and you may have to purchase two devices in the long run.
Look at Back to School as a year-long expense: By focusing on just what your children need for September and budgeting just for that, many other school related expenses are missed. Think about winter boots and jackets that need replacing, the lost lunch bag or backpack. What about pizza lunches, field trips, proms, and grad trips? Working these expenses into a school-year long budget will help you plan and avoid having to shell out money you were not expecting to spend.
The Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie and District is a not-for profit accredited credit counselling agency whose mandate is to educate and counsel the community on issues surrounding money and credit management. For more information about credit counselling services in Sault Ste. Marie, please contact Credit Counselling Services of Sault Ste. Marie & District, 298 Queen Street East, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, P6A 1Y7, visit our website at www.creditcounsellingssm.ca, follow us on Twitter @CC_SSM, or LIKE us on Facebook..