Back to School Shopping: How to Make Educated Choices

If you’ve got school-age kids, you’ll likely be doing a bit of shopping in these next few weeks – and not just for inexpensive notebooks and pencils, but for such big-ticket items as computers and other electronics. How much will it cost to prepare your kids for their first day? The average family spends roughly $550 on back-to-school items – no small sum, particularly if you’re also paying down debt and saving for the future. Before spending a penny, know what you need and how to get the best deal.

Personal computers, laptops, printers, cell phones, and many other electronic devices are quickly becoming “required” school items. Be discerning though – your child may think a $300 music player is a necessary classroom item, but do you? List what you believe your child really needs, then log onto individual retailer’s websites or online superstores to compare prices and features. After you’ve located the best deal on exactly what you want, either purchase from the site (downside: paying for shipping) or go to the store and pick it up (downside: paying for gas).

  • Tip: Avoid being dazzled by fancy features. Many people overpay for extras they never use.

Clothes and accessories
While you may be content with discount brands, your kids may be yearning for designer labels, especially if they’re teenagers. If you can afford to splurge on trendy jeans or shoes to make your child happy, go ahead and indulge – but also discuss advertising, peer pressure, and the value of the dollar. This is a terrific learning opportunity.

  • Tip: If your kids insist on luxury, consider buying the basics and have them contribute their summer income or allowance for the more extravagant items.

School supplies
Many schools, especially at the elementary and middle school level, expect parents to purchase classroom supplies. In fact, your child’s teacher may have already sent you a long and detailed shopping list. Before you buy it all, however, contact the school to make sure it has been updated for the most current curriculum.

  • Tip: Buying things like binders, glue, and erasers in bulk can save you a lot of money. If you don’t have multiple children, consider going in on these purchases with another family.

Saving money now – and throughout the school year – couldn’t be smarter!

Other Related Articles: 13 Tips for a Financially Healthy Family, Money Management Planner, Sending Kids the Right Money Message

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