Modern technology has given parents more shopping options than ever before, but some are discovering the benefits of more traditional back-to-school shopping money management. There are also a few modern twists on classic budgeting tips, too. With the average family spending $700 at the start of the school year, strategies — new and old — are most welcome. As youngsters across the country prepare to return to the classroom, here are 5 back-to-school money management tips every parent should consider before braving shopping:
This is good advice for money management in general, but it’s critical when it comes to back-to-school shopping. A recent article in U.S. News cites “neglecting to make a budget” as one of the Top 9 Money Mistakes Parents Make.” Why? It’s easy for spending to get out of control this time of year because there are so many items children need, and it’s only natural for parents to want to buy everything to set their children up for success. To avoid blowing the budget, parents first need to create one. (Need a help? Google “easy budget plan” to find a template). Planning is crucial in this situation:
The 1970s called with a reminder for parents across the land: take advantage of layaway options as an alternative to credit cards whenever possible. Layaway is one of those options that people tend to forget about, but they shouldn’t. While many retailers charge modest fees to hold items for a month while customers make payments, those fees often pale in comparison to credit card fees. Policies vary from store to store, so inquire about terms and fees before putting anything on layaway. For items that children don’t need immediately, such as winter coats and boots, layaway can be a great option. A modern twist on the layaway plan from the era of disco and bell bottoms: parents in 2019 can find layaway options online, or similar interest-free payment plans.
Many people find that it’s easier to stay within a budget when they pay with cash. There is something about physically counting and handing money to a sales associate that resonates differently than swiping a debit or credit card. Not only is the transaction processed differently in shoppers’ brains, there is no debating when the budget has been exhausted. When the wallet is empty, shopping is done.
This budget strategy doesn’t have to be limited to parents, either. For those who want to incorporate teachable moments into back-to-school shopping, consider the cash envelope plan outlined in a recent NBC News feature. “With the envelope system, each child gets a budgeted amount of cash and a list of the items they need and is left to make their own spending decisions in the store.” This system is ideal for items that are extras, and not necessities, on a child’s shopping list.
Don’t just pay full price. At least, don’t pay full price without first doing a little bit of research online to see if another retailer is offering a better price, or if there is a coupon available. Financial expert Dave Ramsey has compiled a great list of money-saving apps for back-to-school shopping. Take a few minutes to check it out, download your favorites, and start saving!
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Daniel J. Santaniello, President and CEO, of Fidelity Bank, publishes Financially Fit with Fidelity, your guide to financial well-being, every Thursday. If you’re interested in a financial topic we haven’t yet covered or want to subscribe to our emails, please feel free to drop us a line at blog at fddbank dot com. We would love to hear from you.