Although it doesn’t feel like it outside, summer is winding down, which means a new school year is coming. August is a peak month for shopping (second to the holiday season), with 75% of families making back-to-school purchases during this time.
According to a survey from retailmenot.ca, on average, Canadian parents are expecting to spend $461 per child on their kids this back-to-school shopping season (up $132 from last year’s back-to-school shopping average).
Back-to-school shopping often involves creating a budget (and sticking to it), setting priorities, and putting needs in front of wants, which makes it a really great opportunity to start teaching your kids (of any age) about finances. You can involve your kids in almost every step of the back-to-school process – from budgeting, to how you choose to pay for your purchases. Here are some back-to-school shopping tips, and some ways to get your kid(s) involved in the process:
Start by shopping from what you already have
Look at what items are still around the house from the last school year to see if there is anything you can reuse. Go through their clothes, supplies (like binders, pens, pencils…etc), and shoes with them, and pull out anything that’s still useable.
Create a list of needs
After you’ve done your shop at home, create a list of needs together (clothes, shoes, textbooks…etc). If your child suggests something that’s not a “need”, explain why it’s a “want” and put it on a separate list (birthday gift ideas!). Make sure you bring your lists with you when you’re shopping – they’ll help keep you on budget and focused.
Draw up a back-to-school budget together
Once you know what purchases need to be made, consider your monthly household budget and needs. Figure out how much money you have to spend on back-to-school shopping without derailing your household budget.
Making a budget with your kid(s) will help them understand the basics of money management and how to spend responsibly (by staying in budget and what can be done to stay in budget).
Buy in bulk
Buying things in bulk can often be a big break for your budget! Give your child a lesson in finance (and teamwork) by going shopping with one of their classmates or friends and their parents. Before shopping, coordinate what supplies your kids both need, and then split the items along with the cost.
Check out sales
Most stores and online shops offer back-to-school deals. Do your research (look in newspapers, online, and watch for email offers) to find the best deals. You can involve your kid(s) by making it a game – whoever finds the best deal on an item gets a prize (maybe something from their “want” list, if it’s not outside your household budget)!
Pay with cash
In order to stick to your budget, bring cash with you when you go shopping. Leaving your chequebook and credit cards behind will help you avoid the temptation to purchase unplanned items, and it’ll be easier to say no to impulse buys. Paying in cash will help you stay within your budget, because shopping is over when you run out of cash.
Between purchases, ask your child to count how much has been spent so far, and how much money is left for back-to-school shopping. Have them write all the numbers down, and explain how keeping track of purchases helps you to stay within a budget.
If you have to use plastic, use it sparingly
If you end up bringing your credit card, only use it for purchases you can pay back right away. If you have multiple credit cards, use the card with the lowest interest rate so your purchases don’t end up costing you more in the long run. This is also a good opportunity to explain debt and interest to your kid(s).
Don’t forget about student discounts
Student discounts are a really great way to save on everything from clothing to electronics. If your child has a student discount available, check where it can be used and see if the deals are better than what you’d get elsewhere. Make sure you bring a valid student ID with you, as most places require one for redemption.
Thinking about back-to-school shopping during summer isn’t exciting for everyone, but the best way to shop smart and save money is to plan ahead of time.
Do you have any back-to-school shopping tricks you’d like to share?