It's time to start planning for back-to-school shopping

With fall just around the corner, school supply lists are starting to appear in stores among the rows of bright colored folders, notebooks, pens and pencils.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average family plans to spend around $680 this fall.

School supplies account for about $125 of this budget, with additional purchases including clothing, shoes and small electronics.

Unlike holiday purchases, which many have saved up for throughout the year, back-to-school time seems to sneak up on us and adds up quickly.

Before you head out to the stores or get online, spend some time planning to help stretch your budget.

First, go through school supplies and clothes from last year and list the items that you already have on hand.

Does your child really need a new backpack, or a new lunchbox? Do the jeans from last year still fit?

Also consider fees paid directly to the school, such as book rentals, band instrument rental or athletic fees and required immunizations. List these fixed costs in the “must have” category.

Next, figure out which items your child needs at the start of school and which items can wait a month or two.

Maybe one or two pairs of new pants will make do for the start of school, especially if your child is going through a growth spurt.

Waiting to buy some items until later in the fall gives you a chance to spread out your spending.

Use your child’s school supply list, your school fees “must have” list and your list of needed clothes to set a realistic budget amount for each child.

Use back-to-school shopping as an opportunity to involve children in the purchasing decision. Work out compromises and ways to trim to stay within the budget. Discuss the many options available for buying the things they need.

For example, a pair of jeans might cost $50 at a stylish chain store, $25 at a retail department store, $10 at a thrift store or $4 at a garage sale.

Help children understand “quality” and how to select the features needed when so many choices are available. Teach them the skills of comparison shopping – checking prices and offers from different retailers, including online.

Additional tips to stretch your back-to-school shopping budget: Make a shopping list and stick to it. Check out sales, coupons, outlet stores and discount stores. Pay with cash whenever possible to avoid credit fees and finance charges. When shopping online, group orders with family or friends to qualify for free shipping or saving on bulk items. Save receipts to make returns easier.

By using wise consumer skills, you are teaching your children a critical life lesson.

Using these techniques will also put you and your family on the road for greater savings and a better plan for next year’s back-to-school shopping!

For more information on family resource management or adult development and aging, contact the Marais des Cygnes Extension District in Paola at 913-294-4306 or Mound City at 913-795-2829, or write to [email protected].

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