Back-to-school season is becoming comparable with holiday spending in that every year the pressure to spend more seems to become greater. According to a recent RetailMeNot survey, North American parents will be spending an average of $507 on back-to-school shopping this year.
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Back-to-school lists look a lot different now than they did even 20 years ago, and making sure your child heads back to the classroom with the tools they need can put major stress on the bank account.
Global News spoke with Tanis Ell, a credit counsellor with the Credit Counselling Society Regina, to learn some tips on how to be financially responsible on the journey to Sept. 3.
School in the digital era
Technology has become an expectation in school as well as at home, especially in the later school years, but Ell said that doesn’t have to be a roadblock to success.
She says planning ahead when it comes to big purchases is key.
“Perhaps buying used or refurbished items will be a little more cost-effective than brand new,” said Ell. “Or, utilizing loyalty rewards, like Air Miles [to purchase items like laptops or cameras].
“Asking grandparents if they want to chip in and help cover the cost” can also help, or simply “explaining to kids that this will be part of their Christmas or birthday gift.”
Sticking to the budget
Supply lists invite shopping and more spending. Ell said that doesn’t have to be the case, especially through negotiation, planning and re-using.
“I’m a parent myself, and every year [my daughter] wants a new backpack or lunch bag. So we negotiate, and if she will re-use the backpack from the year before, we will get the new lunch bag. It’s one or the other. She understands that she can’t have all of it,” explained Ell.
“Look at what you already have and utilize some of that stuff from last year. We don’t want to be wasteful, either.”
She said collaboration can help save money too.
“If you have a big family or maybe some friends that you can go in with and buy bulk items, like binders that come in big packs, you can definitely save.”
Ell said online shopping provides exclusivity when it comes to your wallet.
“Instead of shopping through the aisles, you are buying specifically what you want and you can compare at other stores while you’re online.”
She said setting up a spending plan and tracking purchases will allow for mental preparation, which can reduce stress.
“These annual or seasonal expenses — back to school, Christmas, car repairs — these things don’t happen all the time, but we know they’re going to happen and we can prepare for them by understanding how much it’s going to cost us,” she said.
Ell said setting money aside throughout the year will ensure preparedness.
“It goes for groceries, fuel, all living expenses. This allows us to look at the expenses, see where we can reduce, or even postpone some buying.”
A lesson in money
Throughout all the shopping, there’s an opportunity to get your child on board with saving and learn the value of a dollar, too.
“It’s an ideal time to talk to kids about money, like showing them the cost difference between brand name and generic.
“Give them a budget. [Say] ‘This is how much we have to spend on your school supplies and clothes,’ and let them make the decisions on where they’re willing to make a sacrifice so they can have the item that they really want.”
Ell also acknowledged that some schools have extra funds and supplies to provide financial help at this expensive time of year.
“Talk to the school.”
She also recommended seeing a free credit counsellor or using online tools to budget.
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