Back-to-School Financial Checklist


Any parent knows that back-to-school time equals shopping, which can quickly add up. How is it that your kids always seem to require brand-new everything each year?

According to Deloitte, parents spend $488 for clothing, accessories, school supplies, computers and other electronics for their children. This year, face back-to-school shopping with a plan. Coming up with a strategy that meets both your children’s needs as well as your financial responsibilities will help you minimize your costs.

The first step in your strategy is to create a budget. It is important to consider additional expenses that may come up during the year such as field trips, extra-curricular activities and fundraisers. Plan to set some money aside to cover these costs. Do not feel guilty if you cannot give your child everything they want. Remember that you are teaching them an important lesson about needs versus wants, and how to budget.

Next, create a list of items your child “must” have — schools typically provide a list of needed supplies. Before buying another brand-new box of crayons, look to see what supplies you have left-over from last year that you can still use. Children grow up fast, so they may need new clothes as well. Clean out their closet to see what still fits and identify clothes they actually need to fill in any gaps. Consider hand-me-downs from friends and family before buying new at the store, and donate any items that do not fit — remember to get a receipt for your taxes!

Look at advertisements before you leave the house. Many stores post their specials online, so you can comparison-shop before you go. The earlier you shop the better prepared you are, but that is not the case when it comes to getting a great deal. Consumers who shop earlier will spend more, with shoppers starting before August projecting to spend 26% more than those beginning in August, according to Deloitte. Retailers start pushing merchandise earlier and early, but everything is at full price. The best time to shop is during back-to-school sales tax holidays. Typically held in August, these are days when select school supplies are exempt from state sales tax. Dates vary by geographic location, but if your state participates, you can save considerably. You will start to see sales in late August and early September.

Discuss allowances — it is a simple way for a child to learn about hard-work, the value of a dollar and how to manage money. By giving an allowance, they can develop good financial-habits, and you might get an extra helper around the house! It is ultimately up to you whether chores are done for an allowance, or because your child is a member of the family and should pitch-in. Whatever your choice, have a family meeting to discuss your expectations.

By following these few simple steps, you will be off to a great financial start this school year!