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Build in Life Lessons During Back-to-School Shopping

Posted August 08, 2012 in Advice Column, Des Moines West

It’s time to start gearing up for the new school year, and back-to-school shopping is getting into full swing.

This year, I encourage you to put a new twist on this annual tradition by building in some life-long financial lessons that will help your kids feel more invested in the decision-making process… and may even make back-to-school shopping a little more fun!

 •    Create a budget together. Sit down with your child and create a back-to-school budget together. Let your child know exactly how much money can be spent. Keep in mind it’s always better to have discussions about money and purchasing limits at home, rather than at the store. Encourage him or her to stick to the budget spending limit by stressing that choosing one expensive item may mean sacrificing in other areas. Preparing your child ahead of time will make for a much smoother shopping experience.
•    Determine needs vs. wants. Back-to-school shopping is a great opportunity to teach your child about the difference between a “need” and a “want.” If your school supply list includes a 20-cent plain folder and your child spies a $2 superhero folder he would prefer to have, take a moment to discuss with him the difference between the two items and whether the increase in price is worth it. Explain that if he gets the expensive item, he will have to cut back in other areas. Another option is to encourage your child to supplement the difference between the cost of the “need” and the “want” with his own money.
•    Comparison shop. Teach your child to comparison shop to avoid impulse buying or paying for overpriced items. Deter him or her from buying something on the first visit to the store. Instead, encourage your child to shop around and take time to consider purchases. Encourage him her to consider ways to save, like clipping coupons, looking for sales early or buying supplies quarterly or by semester.
    •    Share the savings. Provide an incentive to stay under budget. Tell your child before you start shopping that if you come in under budget, you will put a portion of the money you save in a savings account for something on his or her wish list.

By including your child in every aspect of the back-to-school shopping experience, not only will you be sending him or her off to school on the right foot, you’ll also be laying the ground work for future financial responsibility.

Information provided by Karolyn Wells, CEO, EdCo Community Credit Union, 609 38th St., Des Moines, 274-4100.

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