Friday, October 16, 2009

Kids and School Shopping: Hit the books, NOT your wallets!

With the lazy days of long over in most of Wyoming and the flurry of fall activities filling our calendars, we may notice a change in the stress level of parents and students across the state. Often, high-cost school supplies, activity fees, clothes, and other must-haves for kids can add a major stressor to family life.

To help the keep spending within limits and teach important life lessons for the school year and beyond, here are some strategies to help your students hit the books, but not your wallets, this school year.

1. Get the kids involved in planning when they have “wants” or “needs” on the shopping list. Have your technology-savvy kids search on-line for best prices, map the routes between stores for your next shopping excursion, and create a budget spreadsheet to track their spending.

2. Share the budgeted amount you can afford for the semester or school year on clothes, supplies, and extra-curricular events, and enlist their help in choosing how the money should be spent. Your kids will likely have to make some hard choices and a few things may fall by the wayside, but the valuable lessons they learn will be much more important in the long-term.

3. Also give them an opportunity to develop creative solutions to their budget shortfalls like selling outgrown but usable clothing, furnishings, or toys at a consignment store or on-line at eBay or Craigslist.

4. Long after the school-year is underway, stores often offer deep discounts on supplies and clothing to make room for merchandise for the fast-approaching holiday season. You can capitalize on some mid-semester school shopping with deep discounts. By then, your kids have a better idea of what they want after seeing the popular trends during the initial weeks or months of the school year.

The hopeful result:

Parents will spend less, and kids will better understand the reasoning when you say "yes" or "no” to their purchases. You will give them practice shopping for bargains, prioritizing their wants, planning ahead, and sticking to a budget ... and those are some important lessons that will live long after their school days are through.

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