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Adventures in back to school shopping

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Adventures in back to school shopping Adventures in back to school shopping

It's time to get this party started, kids. Yes indeedy, it's back to school shopping time. I wait until August to write about back to school anything so we have some time to enjoy summer, but many of you may have already begun your back to school planning.

Looking for practical ways to teach little people about money? Back to school shopping provides a perfect opportunity. According to money studies, many of us are doing a good job in this particular financial budgeting, but let's look at some great ideas to help tweak your plan.

Needs vs Wants- In the battle for the best back-to-school treasures, 3/4 of parents and teens say they have had the discussion about what students NEED versus what they WANT. About half of parents make a list to keep the shopping focused. And many of you already know that between sales and less expensive discount stores you can really make your money stretch with a good list once everyone understands the priorities.

Budget- BLAH, you say. But no, bud, this is the heart of the matter. Let the kids know how much you can spend. Period. That is giving them a budget. You've got whatever finite amount of money that can be allocated to this need and it has to cover these items. 

The next step is to involve the kids whom this money will benefit and show them how to break the amount of money into categories such as clothes and suppliesYou might begin by doing a little window shopping so they are familiar with the items' various costs. For instance, online searches can help them see the prices of the top of the line, or their favorite brand-name book bag or jeans versus the no-name brand. Take them to high-end stores to price shirts compared to other shops and resale outlets so they can understand the broad range in options. 

Then maybe make a chart or write things down broadly. One author suggested getting out a white board so everyone can see, and write everything down. No comments, no guilt trips. As adults we have years of experience with this decision-making process of making a finite amount of money cover many needs and wants. The kids are young, and this is a new (or at least rare) financial exercise about prioritizing as much as it is about the real-life world of working with a budget. 

But some great lessons come from this open discussion. First, if they want more money, they may still have time to earn some through chores or outside work for Nana and Grandpa, babysitting or even a yard sale selling their older toys. Second, they can begin prioritizing the most important, substituting cheaper options for less important things to buy on their list. 

Don't make money be an emotional topic. Don't hide real life from your kids, but don't make blame or guilt be part of this discussion. Here are the numbers. Here are the facts. How can we be content in balancing our whiney wishes with some great bargains? Many of us do not have everything that we want. Our eyes and our fickle hearts sometimes pine for more. Help them see how grownups work out these daily, real-life prioritizing decisions.

Reduce - Reuse  Before telling the kids the bottom line of the budget, it might be good if you have already done some planning so you can more aptly guide the upcoming discussions. In creating your budget you will first have to decide how much the kids really need and compare that to what you can afford. Perhaps you can scour the house for good stuff. Mixing old stuff with new items is great for the environment and your pocketbook. Consider speaking with friends to trade things you may have that their kids would use for things they have that your kids can use. Do some reconnaissance. Check out the very cool, vintage and retro shops for the clothes that only the most awesome kids are wearing.

Plan for 2014- If planning like this is new to you, there may be a few shocks and surprises. But if you work this early for 2014, next year could go even better. One survey found that about 20 percent of parents save a portion of any tax return specifically for school shopping in the fall. Other parents encourage the summer yard sale so kids think about increasing the shopping budget with their own cash. So make back to school shopping an event that you mull over and plan for.  Perhaps you can help the kids understand how great longer-term planning is and that it can work to their advantage. Just like planning for Christmas or vacation, everyone could have back to school shopping on their financial radar for even better results next fall.  

Setting priorities is part of life, and it applies to our time and our money. This is as real as real life gets. Though we are better when it comes to school shopping and budgeting, parents are not having money talks year-round with kids, according to studies. I'm hoping we can improve that this year!

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