Back-to-school, with all its financial pressures, can be a stressful time for many families. We’re all so busy that it often feels difficult to find the time, energy and money to plan for the new school year. Setting a time to go get those clothes, shoes and supplies should be something kids look forward to doing with you. It’s a time when they get to make choices, but for parents, it can be draining….financially and emotionally.
Here are five tips to help make your school shopping a positive experience for you and your kids and to help make the process go more smoothly.
- Look honestly at your situation and make a plan.
It’s hard to look at things we feel fearful about, and Back-to-School Spending can be one of those things. School shopping can put a dent in one’s finances so it’s important to figure out what you are able to spend without doing harm to your bank account. If you come up with a plan, things won’t look so grim.
- Determine what the needs are for back-to-school expenses.
Besides clothes and shoes for your kids who’ve grown over summer, supplies will be needed. Most schools provide a supply list of necessary items (backpack, notebooks, pens, calculator, etc), so use that as your guide to be sure your child is equipped. Does your school have a dress-code policy? If so, be sure your kids understand the importance of adhering to it when choosing clothes. Help your kids sort through their closet to take inventory to clear out the clothes that don’t fit (or that they are never going to wear) so you know what’s left and what’s needed. If your kids are involved in sports or extra-curricular activities, be sure to consider the costs of uniforms, special shoes, equipment and fees.
- Ask your kids about what’s important to them, then watch for and shop the sales.
Are there special trends that they want to follow (that are in line with your values)? What are their priorities with regard to school activities? All kids want to be “stylin”, but do it within your means. Watch the ads and shop for those “in” items when they’re on sale.
- Plan a successful shopping trip. Make it fun!
Depending on their ages, let your kids know what your budget will be to eliminate unrealistic expectations. Shop at stores that fit your budget—if Target might be a better choice than Nordstrom’s this year, then recognize that. Help your kids make appropriate choices so they feel good about their selections. Make sure they have put together complete outfits. Make it fun — some kids may enjoy using a calculator to keep track of their total as items are put into the cart and if it goes over their allowed amount, decisions (what to keep and what to put back on the rack) come into play.
- Don’t give in to the pressure.
Kids have a way of pressuring parents into buying them things to “keep up with the Joneses”. Avoid that trap. The stress on you and your family just isn’t worth it. Pick your battles. Don’t feel like you have to overspend on your kids, especially if it’s not in your plan/budget. Shopping within your means can be a good lesson for children.
Kids are amazing and resilient. We’re the ones who feel guilty—often for no reason. Our kids will be more adaptable if we are honest, talk to them at their level, and pay attention to their needs, as well as our own, to keep the school shopping within bounds.
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