Brace yourselves, parents. The figures
are in. Families with school-aged children will
spend an average of $594.24 on back-to-school
items, up 5.2 percent from last year. And, that's
not including the extras -- book sales, bake sales,
soccer equipment and piano lessons.
Bad news for
Stores will reap nearly $20.01 billion from parents
gearing up their elementary through high school
children for another year of learning, according
to the National Retail Federation. That's a boon
for stores and bad news for your budget.
But Peter J. Sander, father of two
boys and author of "The
Everything Personal Finance Book," says it doesn't
have to be that way.
can be an opportunity to teach your kids to manage money and to budget -- and
to have fun," says Sander.
So, before you grind your teeth into financially induced
oblivion, be assured that there are ways to save when gearing up
for another school year.
1. Shop the right way
"Parents come back from back-to-school shopping
and find they have a whole lot of things they don't need and clothing the kids
won't wear," he says. But, with a little planning, you can avoid such waste
and save money.
Sander suggests that parents have a clear idea of
what they want to get and what they want to spend. Back-to-school
shopping should be just an exaggerated extension of your normal
shopping process, he says. Follow a budget, and set spending goals.
Once you decide what
your child will need -- need, not want -- put a dollar amount on the whole shopping
Don't budget for every specific item. For example,
don't say you will spend $19.95 on pants, and $2.95 on notebooks.
Instead budget for the big picture. Pick an upper limit, says Sander.
This upper limit will come in handy when bargaining with your child.
2. Bargain with the kids
You can have two goals for back-to-school shopping: Get
everything you need while staying in your budget, and teach your child the value
Sander says the best way to accomplish both tasks
is to tell your child the items you need to buy and the dollar amount
you have budgeted to spend. Explain that any excess can be used
as a reward -- either something small, such as ice cream, or something
big, such as a future vacation.