Back-to-school spending, planning and strategies

If you have to spend money, spend it wisely

As summer winds to a close, the realities of a new school year begin to set in. New shoes, clothes, school supplies, activity fees…the list goes on and on. For many, a new school year means spending. Sometimes, spending a lot.

The National Retail Federation’s Annual Back-to-class 2022 survey estimates the expected back-to-school spending per household (grades K-12) will be $864, up almost 20% from five years ago. To cover costs, 38% of respondents expect to cut back in other areas of spending and 12% expect to borrow money or go into debt. Facing extra expenses is not easy, especially when according to a Civic Science survey, 65% of parents surveyed are very concerned about inflation and 55% of parents admit to becoming more price sensitive over the past 12 months.

Simple Savings Strategies

What are some simple strategies for saving on back-to-school expenses?

Clothing – review what your children really need and figure out if you can stagger purchases. For instance, do they need a new sweatshirt when it’s still August? Do they need more than one pair of new shoes to wear on the first day?

School Supplies – take inventory of what you already have. There’s a good chance your child came home on the last day of school with items that can be used again such as pencil boxes, scissors, rulers and pencil sharpeners. Look at their backpack from last year, if it’s in good shape and the zippers work, use it again.

Technology – Instead of a laptop, would a tablet with a keyboard suit their needs? Consider buying refurbished, many retailers provide a warranty with refurbished equipment.

In general – Use student discounts, price tracking apps, price matching and coupon codes. Some brick-and-mortar stores offer price matching, allow coupon codes and sometimes have fantastic clearance sales after the school year starts (stock-up for next year).

Make it an educational lesson

Some research suggests that money habits start to develop by the age of seven. Use this time of year as an opportunity to teach financial literacy. Considering the 2021 National Financial Educator’s Council Financial Literacy Test average test score for participants ages 15 -18 was just 64.2%, it might be a great opportunity to discuss money and finances.

No matter the age, sit down and ask your child how much they think getting ready for school will cost. Break it down by category (supplies, clothing, technology, etc.) and set an amount for each. Then, plan a time to go shopping together.

Whether you are shopping in-store or online, keep a running tab of your expenses and encourage your child to compare what they want to what was budgeted. Working together and thinking about costs may redirect their approach to what they really need versus what they simply want.

Plan Ahead

Stock up

As mentioned previously, many stores clear out their school supplies at a substantial discount after the school year begins. Items such as spiral-bound notebooks, packs of pencils and erasers don’t change from year to year; why not buy these items for 70 – 90% off and store them away for next year?

Create a savings goal

Keep track of everything you spent for back-to-school and use that as your go-by for what it will cost next year. If you spent $800, that’s $80 a month for 10 months. If that’s a comfortable amount, start in September and sock aside that $80 each month until next July when back-to-school shopping starts all over again.

ANB Go (American National Bank’s online banking platform) offers a free tool called Money Monitor where you can create budgets and savings goals. It’s automatically linked to your accounts so you can easily budget for next year and hit your savings goal. Plus, the interactive dashboard is a useful visual for you (and your child) to monitor your progress throughout the year.

Learning together

Back-to-school time is an opportunity for a fresh start for the entire family. Use this time to support education while taking steps toward learning financial literacy. While we can’t eliminate back-to-school expenses, it’s worth it to think about strategies to save, budget and get the kids involved in the process.

Articles contained in our news section are not intended to provide recommendations or specific advice. Consult with a professional when making financial decisions. Once published, articles are not updated; information may be outdated.

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