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 of the total amount can be made at the end of the month - otherwise the interest quickly adds up.
* 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. Maybe look through the closet for items left from last year that might be usable this year.
* 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? Where we shop can make a big difference in the totals we purchase. Are we set on items from a particular store? Or a specific brand? Can I find similar items at a second-hand store or a garage sale? While it may take a little more time, the reward can be great if I can find the right size and style.
* 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 birthdays, or upcoming holidays where we might add items to the wardrobe?
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. Dividing the money up and allowing the children to actually make the purchase helps them understand how much it takes to purchase items, and how quickly it goes.
Learning to plan ahead by saving money for specific needs is a life lesson that we can all practice. After the expenses of back to school, there’s the Wayne County Fair, sporting events, and then the holidays within the next four months. Be strategic with your money by planning what to spend, save, and share each month and talk with your children so that they will begin that practice as well.
If you’d like to learn more about stretching your dollars or saving with purpose, please give the office a call at 330-264-8722 and talk with Melinda or Sara about Money 101 classes.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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