Back to School Budget Basics

The back to school shopping season is the second busiest of the year after the winter holidays, with 63 per cent of consumers planning to spend upwards of $500 and another 20 per cent planning to spend between $500 and $1000 on their back-to-school needs. What is shocking is that 17 per cent of Canadians don’t have a back to school budget.

Going back to school doesn’t mean breaking the bank, but it can be an expensive endeavor if you don’t plan ahead. Whether you are heading off to university or sending your child to kindergarten, having a budget in mind for all of your back-to-school needs is essential to saving big bucks and protecting your bottom line this year.

When you sit down to start budgeting for back-to-school make sure to get your kids involved. There is no better time to teach your kids about money since most of the back-to-school purchases will be for them and their studies.

Involving kids in creating a back-to-school list of necessary items, and giving them a budget forces them to make conscious financial decisions for themselves. As most kids are ready to start handling small amounts of money by age seven or eight, here are some great tips to show your children just what goes into buying their school supplies:

  • Help them reduce the amount they spend by evaluating (together) the condition of the supplies brought home at the end of the last school year to see what can be recycled and re-used.
  • Give your kids a budget for school supplies and let them create the shopping list.
  • Set up a reward system if they spend less than the budgeted amount.
  • Encourage them to browse flyers for sale items.
  • Teach them to shop around for the best price – things like pens, pencils and notebooks will likely be more affordable at a dollar store, for example.
  • For some items, it may be worth spending a little more for quality. For example, they may find an inexpensive, but low-quality, backpack at a discount store that needs to be replaced after a few months. By buying a quality backpack at a sporting goods store (for example), you may save money in the long run.
  • Instruct them to only shop for first term; items can be replaced on an as-needed basis throughout the year.
  • Encourage them to label as much as possible to avoid loss.

As parents, it is important to help our children understand the value of a dollar. Building a budget for back-to-school shopping, and not spending beyond your means is the best primer for personal finance you can give your family – and yourself.

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