5 Ways to Save Money on Back to School Shopping

Written on August 14, 2012 at 10:46 am , by

 

Guest blogger Cherie Lowe on teaching your kids about money while saving big on back to school shopping.

The thrill of a shopping victory comes when you see that grossly disproportionate number at the bottom of your receipt telling you just how much money you saved. You totally know what I’m talking about. It’s the kind of receipt you want to show the people in front and back of you in line, as well as the greeter at the door. It’s the kind of receipt that invokes an embarrassing mom dance in the parking lot. And it’s the first thing you show your spouse when you see him next.

Don’t keep all of that giddy pride to yourself. Back to school time is the perfect opportunity for you to teach your tween how to handle money well–and possibly earn her own receipt worth showing off. You’ll need patience and you’ll have to relinquish control, but the byproduct is a money-savvy kid who learns that each penny counts. Here’s how to start:

1. Help your tween evaluate his needs before going shopping. Block off an afternoon to take inventory of what fits, what doesn’t and what he can re-use from last year. After you have a nice stack of items donate or hand down, compile a list of needs. Be sure to take stock of school supplies, in addition to clothes. Rulers, scissors, backpacks, lunch boxes and even USB drives usually have lifespans of 2-3 years.

2. Set two cash budgets: one for clothing, one for supplies. Based on what you’ve spent in the past and what your kid needs, go to the ATM and pull out EXACTLY what you plan to allow her to spend. If you let your kids shop with plastic–even debit, and yes, even if you’re present–they will always spend more.

3. Narrow your shopping venues and clip coupons. Don’t just wander the mall. You and your teen need a plan of attack. Sit down together and decide which stores you’ll hit. Then, google their names, along with the word “coupon,” to see what’s available for both clothing and supplies.

4. Steer your kids towards the clearance. Now’s not the time to buy sweaters and jeans–purchase capris, shorts and Ts, which are on sale now. Most schools start when the weather is still hot. Wait two months to shop for fall and winter clothing; by then, prices will come down substantially. If your kid desperately wants something spiffy for the first day, let her choose one fall outfit. (It can double as picture day attire, too.) But for everyday wear, urge her to choose clearance first.

5. Give them guidelines and set them free. It’s time for the little bird to fly from the nest. If you let your teens know that it’s their money to spend, they might have a different attitude than if you’re paying the bill. So if their shopping list calls for 3 pairs of pants, 2 tops and some socks, let them choose. This is extremely hard, as a parent, but it will make them realize that sometimes you have to decide between one pair of expensive jeans or two off-brand pairs. Obviously, you’ll need to help them navigate their school’s dress code–and perhaps your own household’s possibly stricter dress code. And let’s be clear: They may blow their budget and have to live with it. But you will not be sent to parent prison or turned in to Child Protective Services. And your kids will gain some valuable life learning.

How do you help your tween navigate the back to school aisles?

For more Royal Money Saving Back to School Tips, check out:

Cherie Lowe blogs at the Queen of Free, where she wears a plastic tiara and plans on never growing out of playing make believe.  Through written word and speaking engagements, she has shared the Royal Family’s Journey of Paying off $127,482.30 over the last four years.