Avoiding the Back-to-School Money Pit
I suppose it starts in July. The advertisements for back-to-school products seem to start earlier each year. Everywhere you look, you are bombarded with the latest and greatest trends for school. I can easily tune them out, but my eleven-year old most certainly notices.
The other day, I saw an ad for a "must-have" back-to-school item that stopped me in my tracks: a cell phone. Really? Since when did cell phones show up on the requirement list from your local school district? While many kids do own them, they are certainly not a school necessity. And my daughter will NOT be carrying one this year or next, for that matter. But she will want one, no doubt.
As a parent, it is my job to model good stewardship for my children. They know that when a new school year rolls around, we go shopping. They also know there are limits. I am not afraid to say no.
Here are some practical tips to implement when your kids whine for that brand name whatchamacallit:
1. Have a budget. Decide ahead of time how much you plan to spend on new clothing, backpacks and shoes. Bring cash when you shop to avoid the plastic temptation. Be clear and upfront with your kids about the limits.
2. Spend more where it matters. I buy a quality backpack once every two to three years for my kids. The cheapest option will not last more than a few months, which I learned the hard way. Same goes for lunch boxes.
3. Save on supplies. School supplies are dirt cheap if you know when and where to shop. Don't overlook office supply stores for amazing bargains.
4. Wait. Do not blow your entire back to school budget before school starts. The best sales will be in late September, and by then your kids will have settled into a routine and know what they still need.
5. Minimize advertising in your home. Ditch the catalogs, fliers and magazines. Limit TV programs that target kids with commercials. The less they are exposed, the less the gimmes seem to appear.
How do you hand the back-to-school shopping madness? Share your tips!