Back to school this year is especially tough because many budgets may be feeling squeezed. But we still want to get our kids what they need and the fun, fashionable supplies they want. As an educator and a mom of three, I think back-to-school shopping is a great time to teach your child how to be a smart spender. Here are 10 ways to do that last-minute school shopping so that everyone ends up in a win-win situation.
1. Make a shopping list. Involve your kids in developing their own shopping lists. Start by having your kid list his or her teacher’s required school supplies. (If you haven’t received “the list,” check the school’s website.)
2. Create a realistic budget. Set a budget that works for your family and share that with your child. Establish wants versus needs. Give your young child a few index cards. He or she can cut a few desired items from ads, and glue them onto the cards. Now, each kid takes his or her list when you head to the store.
3. Do one-store shopping. Choose only one store to shop. It’s not so overwhelming for you going store to store, you’ll use less gas in the process, and you'll cut back on kid bickering. I’m partial to Office Depot because things are affordable and it has everything needed for the little kids who need backpacks, crayons and glue, as well as the teens who need technology.
4. Use the penny savers. Once you choose your “one store,” check out their penny saver deals. You’ll never get better bargains on school supplies than now. Use those advertisements to teach your kids how to save money on many of their required school supplies (glue for one cent; a ream of binder paper for fifteen cents; folders for five cents). Kids will have more money for items they may “want” but don’t necessarily “need.”
5. Shop early in the day. If possible, do your shopping earlier in the morning. You’ll be less likely to be stuck in those long lines and you’ll reduce the bickering with your kids even more. Everyone (yourself included) will be a happy camper.
6. Make each child responsible for his or her own list. Each child takes his own shopping basket and is responsible for marking items off his list. Your younger child can carry a few index cards with the glued pictures from the advertisements so he can match the items on the shelves and put them in his own shopping cart.
7. Comparison shop. Once in the store, start by choosing the backpack that’s on every kid’s list. The Tug line backpacks range from $5 to $30, which makes them affordable, have those bright colors that kids love, and are also built for kids’ backs. The trick is to show your child a few similar products and their corresponding price tags so that he sees the price differences and how he can save without sacrificing style.
8. Save on technology. On the top of every teen’s school list is a scientific calculator – now, here’s another chance to help your kid become a savvy consumer. Line up a few calculators and have your teen check out their functions and price points. For instance, the Ativa Scientific Calculator is $16 verses the national brand at $140! Once again, your child is making a big savings and still has a few dollars left over for those “want” items.
9. Stock up! During the next few weeks you’ll find some of the best back-to-school supply offers, so stock up now for the remainder of the year.
10. Make sure your child goes to the register. The shopping process isn’t complete until your child goes to the checkout with you. This is when he or she learns to make those tough fiscal decisions. If he's over the budget, he decides what unnecessary items to eliminate. I watched a mom do this with her five-year-old last week. Mom read off each item on the school list, while he placed it on the counter. She also made sure her son saw how everything added up and even had him slide her credit card for the total.
Be sure to make this year’s back-to-school shopping a learning experience for your child and teach him lifelong spending habits. Remember, it’s never too early to start teaching your kids to be smart shoppers.
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