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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

August 15, 2017 - 8:01am -- Anonymous

The days of summer are drawing to a close and many families are beginning to prepare for children heading back to school.   As I listen to conversations in the store, about school supply lists might I offer that this is a really good time to have a teachable moment concerning money and how we use it.  Here are some tips you might use before heading to the store to help children understand wants, needs and the choices we make.

*Look at your budget and make a decision about what you can realistically afford.  Avoid using credit cards unless, payment can be made at the end of the month to pay the total amount, otherwise the interest quickly adds up. If you’d like to use a back to school calculator here’s a link to try:

*Divide the money amount among your children, depending on the age and list of class requirements; it may not be an equal amount.  Then help them make their shopping list.

*Talk about wants and needs.  For example I need a backpack, but I may want one with my favorite character on it.  What will I give up, or trade for the one I want?  This works best when we as parents don’t rescue them from poor choices, we can remind them, but letting them experience the consequences of their choice, is a great life lesson.

*Prioritize the list; so that they purchase the items they have to have first, then they can save for the additional things they want.  Help them make a plan for how they can earn the extra money to get the things they want.  Realize this is an important life lesson; we all have to make compromises and work for the things we want.

* Use the sale ads to get the most for their money.  See if the stores price match or if there are coupons available.  Add up the totals at different stores to see where is the best place to shop and if it is really beneficial to make trips to multiple stores?  How much will you save?

*When it comes to the clothes, do the same thing.  Here’s the budget, what do you need?  What’s in your closet that you can wear from last year?  What can we add to it to make new outfits? What can we wait to buy until next month? Are there garage sales or trading with other families to make “new” outfits to get the school year started? 

Practicing the skills of evaluating where we are at the present, listing our wants and needs, then planning for the future purchases, helps children understand that we may not always be able to get what we want all the time.  Make your back to school budget shopping a new tradition.  Keep track of expenses and notes in a notebook to see what worked well with your children and what didn’t.  What teachable moments were successful throughout the year? 

As our children grow, the budgeting becomes even more important so they can begin to understand the “cost of life”.  We all want our children to become independent, successful individuals and they can achieve this with money management coaching throughout their life.  If you have any questions please contact me at