Back to School Budgeting

By Lisa Moser, K-State Research and Extension news service


Manhattan, KS — Crayons, rulers, wide-ruled paper, binders, tissues, lunch boxes — these are some of the many items young school-aged children and their parents shop for ahead of the return to school.


Along with the excitement of the new school year, it can also bring financial stress as parents work through the budget to pay for enrollment fees, school supplies and, in some cases, new clothes. However, there are strategies that families can implement to save money, according to Elizabeth Kiss, K-State Research and Extension specialist in personal finance planning.


“The earlier that families can start looking at the prices of school supplies, the faster they will recognize a good price and be able to get that item at a good value,” Kiss said.


She shared that the National Retail Federation said that as of July 6, 25% of families have already started their back-to-school shopping.


“Comparison shopping will allow families to price name brands versus generics as well as take advantage of coupons,” Kiss said.


She encouraged families to incorporate discussions around their values as they make choices about how they are going to spend their money on school supplies, lunches and clothes.


“Talking about the costs of things with your student as well as how you make decisions about spending money will help them learn and give them an understanding that they can carry forward in their lives even if they don’t agree with that choice,” Kiss said.


She also encouraged people to spread out purchases. For example, get the school supplies required by the school now, and perhaps postpone shopping for new clothes.


“When kids return to school is the end of summer so they can probably keep wearing their appropriate summer clothes and then get the new clothes, shoes and coat once the weather turns cooler,” Kiss said. She added that families can also look at garage sales and thrift stores for great finds on clothing.


Kiss also encourages families to budget for extracurricular activities.


She said: “This is the time to have a conversation with your student about how many extracurricular activities (they will participate in) and what is most appropriate for their age. Those costs should also be included in the family budget.”


More information on managing family finances is available online. Several publications also are available for free from the K-State Research and Extension bookstore.

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