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Financial Education

Back to School: Shop Smart

Back to school means expenses! Clothes, shoes, and school supplies can drain a budget quickly. According to The National Retail Federation, the average family with school-aged children spends $673 on back-to-school items–clothes, shoes, supplies, and electronics–each year. It’s no wonder setting a budget is essential for all parents with school-bound youngsters.

Thankfully, you don’t need to pay a fortune for school supplies if you shop smart. Smart shopping goes beyond setting a budget, coupon-clipping, carefully picking your stores, looking for sales, and comparing prices. Those are the basic prerequisites to smart shopping.

Smart shopping also takes advantage of teaching moments for your child. Do this by involving your child in making a back-to-school shopping list. Ask your child’s school or teachers for a list of the supplies they will require this school year, and use it as the starting point to creating your own list—together.

Teaching moment: Your child learns the importance of organizing.

Mother and daughter (6-8) making list

After listing the items required, ask your child if she has any other “wants” for the list, as your child and you negotiate the extras.

Teaching moments: Working within a budget, setting priorities, managing money, and saving for the items that don’t make it into the budget. 

Your shopping list is still a work in progress at this point. Next step: Take inventory of what you already have around the house that can be reused. Help your child redecorate last year’s plain notebook with stickers or photos. Use big sister’s left-over pencils instead of buying new ones.

Teaching moment: Recycling is trendy and fun, especially if it buys you a “want” that otherwise wouldn’t have been in the budget. 

School, supplies, in, backpack

When it’s time to shop, draw on the skills you learned in Shopping 101 and begin to model them for your child. Help your child decide when quality is important and when you can let it go. Example: A backpack with a warranty costs more but it’s a good investment. On the other hand, math teachers advise that you don’t purchase a calculator with more functions than your child will use.

Teaching moment: Savvy shopping is worth the effort. It can save you a bundle of money. 

Also, don’t forget about doctor checkups, school fees, and athletics or other extracurricular fees, which often are overlooked when setting a back-to-school budget.

For more help saving for back-to-school spending, call or stop by SIU Credit Union. We can help you develop a savings strategy.



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