Jeanette A. Tucker | 4/19/2005 10:28:34 PM
Start the school year off right by sending the kids back to school on a budget while teaching them money management skills in the process, suggests LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker.
Back-to-school time presents many opportunities to demonstrate budgeting techniques and set a positive example for your children. The family economist recommends trying these ideas this year:
• Develop lists and limits. Work with your child to develop initial back-to-school lists. In addition to the usual clothing and school supplies, remember to include items such as hair cuts, immunizations, dental, eye or physical exams, band or athletic uniforms and equipment or musical instrument rentals. Work from the list to determine budget and spending limits for your child. Be sure to include your child in the overall planning and budgeting process.
• Help your child recognize and express priorities. Review the list with your child and discuss the difference between "wants" and "needs." While essential supplies are a "need," a $20 backpack may do just as well as the $60 one that your child "wants." Brand-name clothes may be popular, but can take a huge chunk out of the clothing budget and drastically reduce the number of new garments that can be purchased. If your child’s heart is set on a purchase with all the bells and whistles, decide together how to cut costs on other items or eliminate less important wants from his or her lists. List your child’s priorities in order.
• Save on clothing. First, determine what clothing is available that will fit. Check uniforms and other clothing that your older children, friends or relatives may have outgrown to see if there is anything that can be reused for younger children. After inventorying available clothing, make a list of what else is needed, including sizes and colors. Take your clothing list with you every time you shop. Have your children help you search the newspaper ads for back-to-school sales, then compare prices. Check factory outlet malls, yard sales, resale shops or thrift stores that may offer lower prices.
Explain to your children that the latest brand names in clothing may not be the best choice. Compare costs and guide them toward sensible alternatives. If your child has his heart set on a costly piece of clothing, you may want to allow him to use his or her own savings to buy it.
• Comparison shop for supplies. Schools often provide a list of required supplies. Before buying them, however, check your child’s old backpack to see if anything usable was brought home from the previous year. Then check ads for sales. You may be able to save a great deal by comparison shopping at warehouse, discount, dollar, office supply or even grocery stores.
"Budgeting should be habit forming," Tucker says, advising "Remind your kids that back-to-school budgeting is only the beginning. Keep money management skills foremost in their minds all year long."
For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/ For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.