Back to School and Budgeting
According to the National Retail Federation, a family with children in grades K-12 will spend $689 this year on their children for back to school needs. This is up significantly from $604 an average family spent last year.
September can be an expensive month when it comes to school supplies and clothes, but a little pre-planning might help avoid a drain on your pocketbook.
Shop the sales smartly
Many stores sell items like crayons or spiral notebooks at very low cost into September, in order to get you in the door for bigger items. Stock up on those inexpensive notebooks and keep your kids in paper all year!
Sales extend into September
Based on the initial rush of back-to-school shopping in late August (or lack thereof), great savings opportunities can extend into September. Also, outlets sometimes offer deep discounts to make room for winter and holiday clothing.
Establish an emergency fund
Experts recommend at least three months’ worth of living expenses should be saved for emergencies like a major home repair or temporary loss of work.
Before you leave the house, conduct an inventory of what is in your kid’s closet now, including last year’s supplies and accessories (backpacks, etc.) Make a list of what they need and remove what they have outgrown. Consider filling a bag with the extra clothes to donate to charity or hand them down to younger siblings.
One new outfit for now
Consider letting your kids purchase one new outfit for the first day of school and put off the rest of the clothing shopping until the sales begin after the season is winding down in late September.
Shopping with teens
Allow teens to start managing some of their own financial choices. Back-to-school shopping is a great way to start to hand over some decision making powers and give them a chance to learn basic money management skills. Depending on your teen’s maturity level, consider giving them a lump sum as their back-to-school money to spend.
If you need to replace the family computer, the best time to purchase a computer could be closer to the holidays so you might delay this purchase if you can. If you do decide to purchase now, shop around and find the best deal.
Shop on-line or use a smart phone app to compare prices. On-line shopping also lets you compare the prices of standard items like jeans or a particular brand of shoe. Another benefit to on-line shopping may be that there are fewer temptations to buy more than you intended.
Have a plan
Have a plan for how you will pay for the purchases and don’t use a credit card without a plan to pay the bill when it comes. You don’t want to be paying for this year’s back-to-school purchases a year from now.
Need to find out more? As a member of Altra, you can take advantage of the GreenPath Financial Wellness program, a free financial education and counseling program. GreenPath counselors are available Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (EST), Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. To use this new service, simply call 1-877-337-3399 or visit them on the web at www.greenpathref.com