A Lesson in Back-To-School Shopping

Most parents regard back-to-school time with a mix of emotions. On one hand, you’re sorry to see your kids go. On the other hand, it’ll be nice to have the whole house awake and moving before noon again! Regardless, there’s time for one more shared experience before school starts and summer ends: back-to-school shopping!

While it’s important to equip kids with the supplies they need to succeed during the school year, it’s also possible to teach them some lessons they’ll need to succeed as financially responsible adults at the same time.

Here’s how it works.


Set a budget

Most school supplies are relatively inexpensive and the challenge of shopping on a budget can make this a fun activity for kids. What’s more important than the specific dollar amount is the clarity of it. A budget for back-to-school shopping shouldn’t be “about $20.” It should be a specific amount.

 Walk them through a plan

Take the school supply list provided by your school and start building a shopping list. Take a look at a few retailers’ advertisements to get an idea of their prices. Identify a few places where kids have to make choices. They could go with the minimum eight-color marker set, or the deluxe 64-color set. Plain, one-color folders, or do they want folders with graphics or logos on them? If they want to splurge in one area, they’ll have to cut back on another.

Set up incentives for performance

Businesses reward their employees for completing projects under-budget. Can you do the same? The important part of the reward is that kids feel incentivized to be thrifty. You might be surprised at the lengths kids will go to in making budget decisions if they’re properly motivated. They’ll get important lessons about personal finance, and you’ll get to save a little money on back-to-school shopping!

Your Turn: What ways have you incentivized your children, whether it was while back-to-school shopping or any other shopping excursion? Did they make choices that surprised you, or did they get you questioning why you didn’t think of that?

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