By Daisy Luther
If your kids are enrolled in school, you know that back to school shopping can make this the second most expensive time of the year.
This year, the National Retail Federation expects back to school spending to reach $83.6 billion dollars. This is a 10% increase over last year’s spending. The average expenditure is $687.72 per child. (source)
Here’s the spending breakdown:
- Clothing – $238.89
- Electronics (computers, calculators) $204.33
- Shoes $130.38
- Supplies (includes backpacks and lunchboxes) $114.12
I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever spent anywhere near that amount of money on back to school stuff for both of my kids combined. It does not have to be this way.
When many Americans can barely make ends meet from month to month without any additional expenses, the pressure to spend money on back to school shopping can be the source of a great deal of stress. Add to this that now, many schools send home a list with kids requiring parents to supply boxes of kleenex, hand sanitizer, and other classroom supplies that can really strain a budget. It’s embarrassing to be put on the spot like that, but don’t be afraid to say no or simply ignore the request. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it.
While we, as adults, can tighten the budget relentlessly on items for ourselves, it’s can be a lot harder to enforce frugality on the kiddos. But by ignoring the financial restraints and spending with reckless abandon on our kids, I don’t believe that we are doing them any favors. The economic outlook doesn’t appear to be improving for many families, as jobs get cut and prices continue to go up. In a world like this, showering your children with false prosperity doesn’t prepare them to survive and thrive.
It doesn’t have to be like this. You can create a budget and stick to it.
Figure out your back to school shopping budget (and teach the kids, too)
First things first, a budget is a must. This is dependent on your personal means. There is one simple rule here: no matter what your children believe that they “need”, it has to fit into the budget.
For years, I have used the envelope method for things like Christmas and back-to-school shopping. It’s fair, it’s efficient, and it’s tangible. This way, I not only stayed within budget, but I taught my kids about budgeting also.
Both of my daughters are very financially responsible and handle money well because they have been making their purchases fit the existing budget since they were old enough to perform the necessary math to do so. There have been years that they made poor choices that they regretted, but by allowing them to do this, they learned a lesson that you just can’t teach with a verbal warning.
- Make two envelopes with each child’s name on it – one for supplies and one for clothes. Into the envelope goes a designated amount of cash – this may be $20, $100, or …read more