Teach Budgeting While Planning for Back-to-School Expenses

Back-to-school time brings the smell of new uniforms and shoes along with newly sharpened pencils, fresh crayons and flowing dollar bills! Now is the time to create a back-to-school budget. As a grandparent who is the primary or even secondary caregiver for your grandchildren, things will look a lot different than when your children went to school.

Before school begins, families are busy buying new clothes, shoes, book bags, and school supplies. Once classes begin, even more expenses appear: supply fees, school lunches, after-school snacks, fees for extracurricular activities – the list goes on and on.

All of these expenses are child-directed. What a great time to help the child learn to shop and use the items wisely.

Obtain the supply list from your child’s or grandchild’s school. Use that list as a guide to separate what the child needs and what the child wants. This is a great time to help children learn to make decisions relating to money management.

Children may obtain money from gifts, allowances, or earnings and should be taught money management at an early age. Allowances provide hands-on experience with managing money at an early age. Earnings may be generated at home for extra work done around the house. The amount received for various tasks should be agreed upon by the parents or grandparents and the child.

Children can plan their spending and learn to set some money aside for future use. Help the child or grandchild set up a budget and a spending plan. Encourage the child to keep records of all earnings, spending and savings.

Recommend that a portion of the child’s money be set aside for future needs; the use of the remaining money should be discussed between parent or grandparent and child.

One may decide to let the child be responsible for one or two items on the school supply list and an item that he or she wants but is not on the “must have” list. When a child purchases an item with his or her own money that child usually takes better care of the item.

The following are back-to-school budgeting hints:

  • Obtain a list of necessary school supplies.
  • Start shopping at home to see if you have items that were not used last year.
  • Attempt to buy all school supplies with cash. You tend to spend more and buy unnecessary items when you use a charge card.
  • Decide how much cash you have to spend and stick with that amount. Consider the cost of: school fees, uniforms, shoes, back packs, and school supplies.
  • Check to see if the school has a uniform trading or discount program. Do you have hand me down uniforms that are in good condition from an older child? Shop discount and thrift stores and garage sales.
  • Start shopping early to spread the expenses over several pay periods.
  • Find the best deals. Sunday newspapers have a great selection of advertisements. Many of the stores also have printed advertisements at their entrances. Others have various coupons. If you have access to a computer and the Internet, check the stores' web sites for coupons as well. Encourage the child to clip only the coupons of items that are on the shopping list. This is an excellent money management lesson.
  • As purchases are made, remove items from your shopping list.
  • Remember that even the very large stores can sell out quickly.
  • When you are ready to buy, if the lowest priced store doesn’t have what you want in stock, ask another retailer to match its competitor’s sale price (bring coupon or ad).
  • Be ready to compromise with your children or grandchildren as they will want to have the cool stuff their friends have. If your budget has the room to consider some of these cool things, you can help your child learn to prioritize. If your budget cannot be stretched any more, consider letting the child use his or her own money for an item or two.

Practice these smart shopping skills as you ready your children or grandchildren for a great school year.


Metzger, R. (August, 2008). Back to School Shopping on a Budget. The Plain Dealer. Downloaded October 9, 2009, from Cleveland.com.

Tucker, J. (2007) Teaching Budgeting When Making Back-to-School Shopping List. Downloaded October 9, 2009 from the LSU AgCenter Web site.

Made available by Beth Gambel, Area Family and Consumer Science Educator, Southeast Region, LSU AgCenter.

10/9/2009 1:59:50 AM
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