Start the school year off right by sending your kids to school using a budget and the money-management skills you will teach them.
Back-to-school planning offers many opportunities to demonstrate budgeting techniques and to set positive examples, according to LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker.
The family economist offers several strategies:
• Develop lists and limits. Work with your child to develop initial back-to-school lists. In addition to the usual clothing and school supplies, remember to include items such as haircuts, immunizations, dental, eye or physical exams, band or athletic uniforms and equipment or musical equipment rentals. Work from the list to determine budget and spending limits.
• Help your child recognize and express priorities. Review the list, and discuss the difference between wants and needs. Although certain supplies are a need, a $20 backpack may do just as well as the $60 one, which is a want.
Similarly, brand name clothes may be popular, but can take a huge chunk out of the clothing budget and drastically reduce the number of new garments that can be purchased.
• If your child’s heart is set on a purchase with all the bells and whistles, decide together how to cut costs on other items or eliminate less important wants from the list. Put priorities in order.
• Save on clothing. First, determine what clothing is available that will fit.
Next, check uniforms and other clothing that your older children, friends or relatives may have outgrown to see if there is anything that can be reused for younger children.
• After sorting through available clothing, make a list of what else is needed, including sizes and colors.
Take your clothing list with you every time you shop. Have your child help you search the newspaper ads for back-to-school sales, and then compare prices.
Check factory outlet malls, yard sales, resale shops or thrift stores that may offer lower prices.
Explain to your child that the latest brand names in clothing may not be the best choices. Compare costs and suggest sensible alternatives. If your youngster is set on a costly piece of clothing, however, you might allow savings to be used for the purchase.
• Comparison shop for supplies. Schools often provide a list of required supplies. Before buying them, however, check your child’s old backpack to see if anything usable was brought home from the previous year.
Then check ads for sales. You may be able to save a great deal by comparison shopping at warehouse, discount, office supply or even grocery stores.
"Budgeting should be habit forming," Tucker said, adding, "Remind your kids that back-to-school budgeting is only the beginning.
Keep money-management skills foremost in their minds all year long."
For related family economics and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.