Most parents would agree that September is the new December when it comes to spending money on their children. School supplies, fees, extra-curriculars, and new clothes add up to one of the most expensive months of the year for many families. If you have more than one school-aged child, that cost can be doubled or tripled. Here are some tips for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket while setting your children up for a successful school year.
- Before you go to a store, shop at home. Go through what your child has left over from last year and see what will still work. Are the markers and pencil crayons still working? Is there life still left in the backpack? Do the sneakers still fit? Rather than buy everything new, only purchase those items that your child really needs.
- Set a budget for back-to-school, and explain it to your children if they are old enough to understand. You may decide on a certain dollar amount per child, or you may allot different amounts to different children based on their ages or needs. The important part is making sure your children understand that there are limits on how much you can spend.
- While you’re at it, set up a regular automated transfer to your savings account so that you have the money set aside by this time next year. If you would typically spend $300 per child, set aside $25 per month and then you’ll have the money by next August.
- Compare prices online before you head to the mall. If your child has their heart set on a particular brand-name item such as a pair of jeans or running shoes, spend some time online looking for the best price. That way you avoid the temptation to overspend.
- Comparing prices online is also useful for smaller ticket items such as pencils, glue sticks, and markers. You may find that one store is generally less expensive than another. It can really add up.
- Get in the habit of reading the flyers that come to your door and taking advantage of any sales that are offered by your favourite retailers. You may have to make more than one trip to the store in the weeks leading up to Labour Day, but the savings will be worth it.
- Consider signing on to your grocery store’s points system. These cards often offer discounts on items that you regularly purchase, and the points add up quickly for free lunch-box items.
- Check out second hand shops for back-to-school clothes. Some consignment stores carry name-brand items at a fraction of what they would cost new. Smaller children, who grow like weeds and are less fashion-conscious, won’t care what brand of clothes they’re wearing.
- Shop without your children! If you know that you tend to give in to their pleas, it might be a good idea to leave your children at home. You can pick them up a small treat to make up for it.
- Don’t purchase everything before school starts. If you can hold off on some purchases, they may go on sale after school has started.
Today’s increased cost of living can make back-to-school more expensive than ever – but it doesn’t have to be that way – and we hope these tips set you up for a more affordable back-to-school season.
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– Tom Anderson, PFP®, CIM® and RIS®
Tom Anderson has a wealth of experience helping people reach their financial goals as a Professional Financial Planner®, and now coaches Kindred’s Wealth and Investment Team. Tom holds a Bachelor or Arts degree in Financial Economics.