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H4: Head, Heart, Hands & Health: Don’t Let Back-to-School Break Your Budget

Where did the summer go? It is now August and that means it’s time to gear up for a new school year. For most families, getting the kids ready to start a new school year makes a huge dent in the family budget. This year, the tax free week in Florida starts today and runs through August 16th, a full 10 days to help Floridians save money. Regardless of the tax break, back to school spending can take a toll on the family budget, so make a spending plan and write it down before venturing into the stores. One of the first and most obvious categories for back-to-school spending is clothing. Shopping for new back-to-school clothes is a necessity in most cases because the kids have usually grown over the summer months and may no longer fit in their school clothing from the previous year. It is important for families to make the most of your clothing dollars. First, find out what each child needs by taking a clothing inventory to determine what clothes can be worn or passed on to another child. Make a shopping list for new purchases needed to fill the wardrobe gaps and plan shopping trips to take advantage of sales. If your child is experiencing a growth spurt, it may be wise to purchase a few items now and buy larger sizes in a few months. Since it is so hot when school begins, many kids will be wearing shorts for a few months. Hold off purchasing long pants because your child may be in a different size in three to four months when the weather cools down. School supplies are another large expenditure in back-to-school preparation.

Get a list of supplies needed, then plan to take advantage of sales. By using this strategy, you will be able to save as much as 20 to 40 percent on school supplies purchased during back-to-school sales. Anticipating the child’s needs for supplies throughout the year and buying them at one time will save money in the long run, if you have storage space. Planning for back to school expenses helps keep you on track with purchases that won’t put you into debt for months to come. Let your children be a part of the planning process, they will begin to develop money skills for the future. It is also a good lesson to know that planned spending helps you get the most for your dollars without overspending. Set a dollar amount for clothing and supplies and have children make their own shopping list. This means, back-to-school purchases can’t exceed a certain amount without getting the family into debt and you must stay within the amount of money budgeted for school. Help children check advertisements for sales and compare prices before the big shopping day. They can prioritize the items on their list according to immediate needs and a wish list of wants. You may discover it’s necessary to make some purchases now and postpone some until next month.

Getting kids involved in the process of planning, selection and purchasing helps them become more aware of family finances and leads to developing responsible spending habits. In keeping with a consumer education theme, when you go to stores, take along a calculator and let your children keep a running total as they select and put items into the shopping cart. It is a great exercise in learning about price comparison and getting the best value for your money. Planning and working together will help your money go further and give each family member a sense of accomplishment because you’ve stuck with a spending plan. For more information on consumer spending and money management, contact the Madison County Extension Service. The University of Florida Extension/IFAS – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Institution.

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