Hey parents! Believe it or not, Summer is winding down and schools are starting up again! Preparing to send your kids back to school can be stressful, particularly because of back-to-school shopping. School-age kids might need anything from textbooks to a new backpack, or even a whole new wardrobe if they’ve grown a lot! On top of everything else, back-to-school shopping is getting more expensive.
You might feel like back-to-school time has snuck up on you this year, but don’t worry! There are still plenty of options to help you catch up and get things back on track.
With back-to-school shopping, organization is key
If you’re behind on your back-to-school prep, you will likely be tempted to rush out and find the nearest sale, but that might be a mistake. Like most things in life, you’ll probably be more successful if you take the time to get organized. Make a list of your child’s back-to-school needs, and then take inventory.
Proper organization takes time, but it should save you effort later. You might discover that you have a lot of things on hand already, especially if they didn’t get used last year. You might not need to buy a new backpack, for example, if you have a usable option in the closet. On the other hand, if you’re pretty sure you have something already, make sure you double check that it’s still in good condition. Good preparation will help you make a more complete shopping list, and will help you make necessary purchases while avoiding unnecessary ones.
Need help with your list? Don’t forget to check online with retailers like Target and Walmart. These businesses often have copies of the supply lists divided by grade, school, and district. These tools should help you create a budget beforehand, even if you don’t shop there.
Prioritize the items that are most important
Part of the stress that comes with back-to-school shopping is that buying so many things at one time can get pricey. Purchasing a whole year’s worth of items can be overwhelming, and it usually results in an extra-large credit card bill. As you might suspect, it’s easier to accommodate these purchases if you spread them out over time.
But if school starts soon, you probably don’t have that extra time. If you’re short on both time and money, something’s gotta give, and that’s why you need to figure out what is most important. This is where your previous organization efforts come into play again.
Chances are your child doesn’t need every single item on the first day, and you can likely ask their teacher(s) what they absolutely do need. Taking stock of what you already own will also help you make these decisions.
If you can wait to make a purchase, you should consider waiting. Back-to-school sales are tempting, but there will be other deals to be had in the future. Don’t forget to look for great deals, and consider shopping at discount stores for things like notebooks, pencils and paper.
Patience and preparation can save you money and stress
It’s not unusual to feel unprepared for the back-to-school rush, but that doesn’t have to become part of the chaos. A good plan and a level head will help you feel a lot more confident and in control, so you don’t panic and spend a fortune on school supplies. But just because it’s going to work out this year, doesn’t mean you can’t do better next year, too.
Learn your lesson from this year’s end-of-Summer scramble, and start getting prepared for 2022. Look for additional deals on supplies once the hype has died down, and stock up on things you know your child will need. Keep that list going throughout the year, and you won’t be in such a hurry next time.
Shopping throughout the year will help you spread out your purchases, but there are other financial strategies you can adopt as well. Probably the most useful is to set up monthly deposits into a school-supplies fund so that next year’s supplies don’t turn into another big credit card bill. You can talk to us about setting up another account, or just set up a monthly transfer.
Don’t forget about your child’s financial education
Finally, while you’re planning for the future you shouldn’t forget your child needs to learn how to manage money, too. Research shows that financial literacy and education programs really are an investment in your child’s future. This means kids who learn more about how to properly manage their money will carry those lessons with them for the rest of their lives.
Here at AgFed we’ve developed youth savings accounts for our younger members, to help them learn life-long good money management skills early. For kids 12 and under we have the All Stars account, and for teenagers 13-17 we have the Young Millionaires account.
But kids can learn financial skills at home, too. Many parents give their children an allowance, or pay them for good grades or chores. You could take this a step further and split their monthly earnings into separate jars, much like their bank accounts would be at AgFed. This can be a great way to get your kids started on the road to financial independence.