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With the start of a new academic year, it’s time to think about all the expenses that go into making sure your children are ready. The good news is there are plenty of ways to save money on back-to-school shopping without skimping on quality products or services, but it takes some discipline and effort. Here are some tips to help you save money.

Plan Before You Shop

School shopping can be an exciting time for kids. They love to get new supplies and new clothes, and you want to make sure they have everything they need. However, it can also get expensive, particularly if you aren’t careful. Here are some ideas that should help.

Make lists: Before you grab the car keys and head out, have a list of what you need. Often, schools or teachers will provide a list of the supplies your student will be expected to have in hand on the first day of class. Once you have your lists, check to see if you already have some of the items: did you use up all the supplies from last year? Can you reuse a binder, folder, or pencil case? Do you still have backpacks, pens, paper, pencils, erasers, rulers, or other supplies that will do just fine? If so, count those items as “done”. Even if you think you may need more of these items later on in, put it off until later rather than take a big budget hit now. 

Also make your own list of other items, such as clothing. But don’t go overboard. If your child will need a new winter coat, put that on a list for when the weather gets cooler. Sometimes, saving money is about spending it at the right time, so that you can save up for it, or make adjustments in your budget over time to make sure that money is there when you need it. 

If you are really thrifty and good at planning, this can be done year-round. At the end of a season, clothing goes on sale: why not buy that winter coat in April for the next winter? Just remember to buy a size or two up, so that the items will actually fit your child when the next season hits! Planning ahead and saving all year round is one key to saving money.

Stick to your lists: Face it, both kids and adults can get their heads turned while shopping, with new, novel, and exciting things on display. Discipline yourself: if it is not on the list, pass it by. Impulse buys end up being hard on your budget, and often result in regret. If you really think it is worthwhile, sleep on it for a day or two. You might find that, when it is not in front of you, it is less appealing.

Look for sales, shop outlets, and clip coupons: This can get tedious, but even small amounts add up. Many stores have good sales on clothing, backpacks, and other school items before the school year begins, and you can go online or look at the local paper to see what coupons are available. But only clip coupons for what is on your list – don’t let a coupon sell you.

Find out what you can get from friends: Sometimes, your friends may have items you need, particularly books. You can even arrange just to borrow them or pass them back and forth as your children move through the grades. This idea can also apply to uniforms or other clothing, or even basic supplies, particularly if they have a child who graduated and won’t need certain items anymore. Don’t be shy: start a group email or chat with your friends to see how you can help each other out. They will all appreciate saving money.

Buy Generic or Store-Brands: Many kids gravitate to name brands, but are they really worth the cost? Most of the time, especially for young kids, the answer is no. Supplies get used up, and your kids will probably outgrow any expensive clothes long before they are worn out. So stick to less expensive items when possible, unless you know that a particular item is of good quality and can be passed down to your other children. 

Can Family Help? Oftentimes, grandparents or aunts and uncles are willing to help out. This is especially true for grandparents, who are often thrilled to be more involved in the everyday lives of their grandchildren. Maybe one set of grandparents can buy shoes for the kids, while the other buys backpacks. Or an aunt who does not have kids can buy all the notebooks and pens and pencils they will need. These can be relatively inexpensive efforts on their part – even $25 can buy a lot of supplies at a big-box store – but that is $25 less than you have to spend.

How To Make it Happen? Give Your Kids the Homework

Maybe you read everything above and think it sounds great. Unfortunately, it also gave you a headache, because you don’t relish the idea of arguing with your kids about what they can and cannot buy. If so, then it’s time to make your kids do the heavy lifting. Here’s the plan:

Let’s say you make a fair estimate that all of these items will probably cost you at least $500. Right off the bat, knock off 5%. Then tell your children that, whatever part of the $475 budget is not spent on their school supplies and clothing, you will divide among them according to their needs, and deposit in a personal savings account for them to keep! (Just make sure that the amount you set does have something left for your children if they are budget-minded.)

It’s funny how children will suddenly find ways to save money when they see a personal benefit, or if it is their “own money” that is being spent. Yes, it will still cost you $475 (less than you thought you might spend), but not all the money will be entirely gone – it will be in your children’s bank accounts, not in the coffers of the store. In addition, the scheme becomes a “school” in itself: it teaches your children thrift, how to budget, and the importance of spending money wisely.

Let your children hunt for coupons and bargains, and let them decide that they don’t need that name-brand shirt or a new backpack. You can even let them be the ones to ask Grandma or Grandpa for help. (And make sure your kids send a “thank you” note afterward.) Maybe they can even convince Grandma to buy that name-brand sneaker they really want . . . without you having to pick up the tab.

When your kids take ownership and responsibility for their decisions, they will learn to distinguish between what they “need” and what they “want.” They won’t feel down when their friends show off some new or name-brand item, knowing that they have made the choice to forego a similar item on their own, and not because “Mom said ‘No’” or “It’s too expensive,” but because they decided that the extra $20 for that name-brand item is better to have in their own account, instead.

Learning To Manage Money is an Important Lesson

One thing a lot of schools don’t teach is how to manage money. The best way to learn is always by doing, and you can have a hand in helping your children understand money management by giving them some financial responsibility. You can even help them set goals, whether it is saving for college, saving for a car, or even just being able to do something special that they have always wanted to do, like attending a professional football game or buying a set of drums! The fact is, building wealth is often less about having a large income than it is about managing money wisely, and disciplining yourself to shun extra spending that does not help you meet your financial goals. For some ideas on how you can navigate your own financial journey more effectively or get accounts set up for your children so that they can gain financial literacy, contact Portage Bank today.

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