NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Back-To-School Dollars

Back-To-School Dollars

            When it comes to buying school supplies and clothes, it’s all too easy to find yourself overspending  The University of Wisconsin-Extension has some tips to help you stick with a budget as you shop for the new school year.

            –First, go through school supplies and clothes from last year and list all of the items and clothes that you already have on hand. Does she really need a new backpack, or does he need that new lunchbox? Do the jeans from last year still fit?

            –Next, determine which items you absolutely must purchase. Use your child’s school supply list, and also list needed additional clothes. (Tip: If a child is growing rapidly, it may make more sense to buy two pairs of jeans or khakis and rotate them, rather than buying several pairs at one time. Waiting to buy a winter coat until fall and pre-season sales allows time for the child to grow and a chance to net some savings.)

            –Come up with a realistic total budgeted amount for supplies and clothing for each child in school.

            –Now, get the kids involved. Explain that there are many options available for buying the things they need. For example, a pair of jeans might cost $32 at a stylish chain store; $15 at a retail department store; $7 at a thrift or resale shop; and $3 at a garage sale. School notebooks cost from 50 cents to over $5. Let kids check out a thrift store and look through store fliers to price and plan for items they might purchase.

            –If teens are using money they earned, remind them of how many hours they need to work to pay for the items they want to buy. If they are earning $7.50 per hour at the local grocery store, they might take home about $4.50 per hour after taxes. It takes more than seven hours of work to be able to pay for a pair of $32 jeans.

            –Be careful about using credit. Try to pay for back-to-school shopping with cash or from your checking account. If you use credit, make sure you don’t spend more than you can pay off in one month, or billing cycle.

            - Even if you need to reduce back-to-school spending this year, use the experience as an opportunity. Involving children and youth in spending decisions can help your kids become wise consumers.

            And it’s not too early to begin thinking about next year. Ideally, parents and caregivers should save throughout the year for the expenses they estimate they will have in August. For example, say that it will cost about $300 per child for all school-related expenses, such as program fees, clothes, supplies and lunch. Divide this by 12 to determine a savings goal of $25 per month per child. This is a good goal for next year.


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