Preparing your kids for the school year ahead can be a costly chore. Between crowded aisles, screaming kids and demands for the priciest pens on the market, we’re all glad when that shopping trip is over.
We poured over research about how parents spend and save on school supplies, and one consistently positive note was that many parents take the school shopping experience as an opportunity to talk to kids about money and spending. According to a survey by Parenting.com and Women and Co., well over half of moms nationwide say they talk to their kids about money while shopping for school supplies and clothes.
A separate study from Capital One notes that 70% of parents surveyed say they discuss back-to-school wants versus needs with their children. Coincidentally, just about the same percentage of parents – 69% – believe that they are doing enough to teach their kids about personal finance and money management habits. So how can you maximize back-to-school shopping as a time to teach your kids real world personal finance lessons? Here are a few tips to consider before you head to the store with your child.
Make a list
It’s important to teach kids the value of planning ahead for shopping. Sit down with your child before heading out to the store to go over the list of supplies provided by their school. Talk about whether you have anything around the house already, and whether there are any items that should be added to the list.
Talk about needs vs. wants
While you’re building that list, the concept of wants versus needs is likely to come up. It’s important to take the time to explain the difference your child. Which items do they require in order to be a successful student? Which could they live without?
Walk through the budget
A great way to show kids how a budget works is to actually run through it with them. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell your child how much you are willing to spend on this school supply trip. As a benchmark, the average dollar amount a US parent spent per child on school supplies in 2012 was $48 (not including clothing). Every time you toss something into your cart at the store, calculate the total together. They’ll be able to see what that dollar amount actually looks like in terms of products – and get some back-to-school math practice.
Shop around to show the value of a dollar
If you’re shopping for a higher ticket item like clothing, you might consider stopping by a few different stores to demonstrate how far that budget will go at various retailers. Your child might be surprised at how much they can get at a second-hand or discount store as compared to a department store.
Explain the concept of plastic
Credit and debit cards can be a confusing concept to younger children. As you approach the checkout line, take the opportunity to explain to them that your card is not a bottomless source of money, but represents actual money in a bank account.
At-home personal finance lessons don’t have to come to a screeching halt when the kids go back to school. For more resources, check out these five ways to teach your kids about money.