Kids don't want to think of it but soon it will be time to go back to school.
Parents should be budget-ready before going on the back-to-school shopping spree for their children.
It used to be that the back-to-school sales and ads were aired on tv and printed in flyers closer to the end of August when summer was nearly over. Things have changed because the ads started in late July. The good thing about this is that it gives parents some time to be ready before going on the shopping trip with their children.
In our family with three children, shopping for school clothes and school supplies becomes expensive if we don't prepare for this. Generally, children do want to look "cool" and go back to school with the latest trends in clothes and gadgets. Parents do want to make their children happy without spending too much. Here are some things we have done to reach an agreeable compromise.
MAKE AN INVENTORY
Ask your children's help in gathering all their existing school supplies. Give each child a small box or bin to put in all their pens, pencils, stapler, rulers, calculators, pencil cases, erasers, and other school stuff they have. You can also check around the house for supplies you may have bought during the year that had not yet been used.
This is also a good time to sort them and throw out the broken or used up supplies.
Inform your kids that they can swap among each other or keep the supplies they own that are still in good working condition. Backpacks can be cleaned and re-used. Swapping gets them a "new" thing without you buying the item.
Apply the same principle for their clothing. Siblings can exchange clothes they have outgrown such as jackets and sweaters. For children who use uniforms in school, a sibling can pass on a smaller size to another. You can also ask relatives and friends who had children previously attending the same school if they can pass on their uniforms to your kids. Uniforms can be purchased at the schools but complete sets can get very expensive too.
Clothes that don't fit anybody anymore or they no longer want should be bagged and donated to a charity.
PREPARE A BACK-TO-SCHOOL LIST
The list is not only for shopping new stuff but a list of anything they will need for school. If your children are teenagers or old enough to make their own lists, ask them to do so. For younger children, ask them to think of the things they will need and write the list for them. I find that children are more receptive to ideas and suggestions if they are engaged and made a part of the planning.
When each child has his or her own list, ask them to tick off the items that they already have after they had gone through their inventory. The remaining things on the list will be what you will need to buy.
STICK TO A BUDGET
Wouldn't it be great to buy all the things on our children's list to make them happy? Believe me, they will still be happy even if you whittle down the items on their lists. For families with younger children, it is easier to buy them clothes as they will wear mostly anything you choose for them.
But for those with older children who want to choose their own clothes, a better way to make everyone happy is to give them a budget to work with. Not only are you teaching them to learn how to budget and prioritize their needs, you are also giving them trust to make their own choices. You can lay down a few basic rules such as lengths of shorts and skirts for girls or spending the entire budget on one item. You can set up a system where they choose the item but show it to you before paying.
School supplies such as pens, pencils, glue sticks, etc. often come in packs of more than one so you can divide these among the children and just buy a single pack.
GO EASY ON THE TRENDY ITEMS
Remind your children that the trendy items including clothes don't last for very long and it would be prudent to limit owning these types of things. Don't stop them from getting a trendy item if it is within budget. If a trendy franchised t-shirt is too expensive, maybe your child could get a notebook or pencil with its logo instead. So replacing the item with a less expensive one is a possible compromise.
Some students also wait until school starts to find out the latest "in" thing. Holding off on buying the trendy items will help you stay within budget.
ARE YOU READY FOR ELECTRONIC GADGETS?
So many electronic gadgets entice students and parents alike. You barely got used to one thing when the next upgraded model comes out. We cannot hide from the age of technology but do not let it control you too. Electronics are bigger and more expensive purchases. Your children will surely ask for the latest laptop or cellphone but be sure to weigh their real needs and use of the item before you buy. A 10-year-old can have a cellphone but maybe limit the use to limited text. A teenager does need a computer but it doesn't need to be the top of the line. Do your research on electronic products to make a wise choice.
CHOOSE YOUR STORES WISELY
Canadians often cross the border into the U.S. to stretch the value of their dollars. Many items found in U.S. stores like Walmart, Aeropostale, Old Navy, Gap etc. are different from the Canadian counterparts and lately are at a lower price too.
But whether you buy at your local stores or across the border, shop wisely. Check your store flyers for their latest sales. Generic supplies such as lined paper or notebooks are often on sale in almost any store. If the price is really good, stock up on supplies that are non-perishable and reliable basics.
If you are buying items that will be used for more than one school year like winter boots, coats and sturdy backpacks, buy those of better quality so it will last longer.
Back-to-school shopping is possible without spending too much if parents and their children cooperate and prepare for it. Checking and making an inventory on items and clothes that are still usable helps cut down costs. Preparing a list and sticking to a budget can be hard at first but being a wise shopper also has its rewards. Shopping can be a learning experience for your children if they are allowed to spend and make their own choices. Trends come and go and we should learn when to buy goods that last and goods that don't last to the next season. Electronics are a great buying temptation but do your research before you invest in these. Shopping at the right store will help you stick to your budget.
Hopefully these tips will help reduce some stress when you are out shopping with the kids. And just think, in a few more weeks they will all be back in school again and the house will be quiet once more!