School Shopping for Young Families

It’s mid-summer and almost back-to-school time – translating into hundreds of dollars in added expenses for families as they purchase clothing and supplies for their children to begin the new school year.  Worse yet, spending for school supplies, if not carefully planned for and budgeted, can add up all too quickly… in what may seem like the blink of an eye, leaving families questioning how they could have spent so much in such a short amount of time.

To help prevent this annual ritual from wrecking a family’s finances consider these timely tips:

  • Check spending motivation.  This is especially important when children are younger and haven’t yet figured out what “designer” means.  While there may be a sense of satisfaction having a youngster sporting some nice (and generally, more expensive) clothes, shoes, backpacks, etc., children and their classmates don’t recognize the difference and likely could care less.  Keep this thought in mind and it could very well save families a great deal of money.
  • Spread it out.  Most parents agree purchases are generally needed to have children ready for the new school year, however, nothing states it needs to be purchased all at once or during the month before school begins.  In fact, spreading out purchases can often save families money.  Purchasing throughout the year provides families with the flexibility to take advantage of sales as they occur and can also allow families to often pay with cash rather than having to resort to a credit card.
  • Don’t spend big money for potentially small use.  Kids change, they get bigger, they outgrow things and their interest evolve – not to mention their unfortunate propensity to lose, tear and break things.  Putting all of these facts together and the question of how much a family really wants to invest in school items may be given greater consideration when trying to decide between the name-brand jeans at $100 vs. an alternative less popular branded pair of jeans at $50 or less.  As long as the child is properly attired for the weather and classroom, does it make sense to spend an additional $50 when the back pocket is bound to be torn off during recess?  Remember the purpose for the item to be purchased and decide between a nice quality, reasonably-priced item and the better branded, more expensive one.
  • Have a plan.  Buying school supplies is never a surprise – that is the good news.  The surprise is how much is spent on the school supplies.  So, develop a plan and a budget while saving up for the future purchases – both of which will help families get through the school supplies buying season with minimal or no financial damage.

If you’ve got kids going to school soon, there’s little doubt that you’ll be spending some money.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to spend less.

Source: The USAA Educational Foundation

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