When it comes to finances, nearly everything you do offers teaching opportunities for your children. And, there are few teaching moments as obvious as back to school shopping. Money (sometimes large amounts of it) is involved, and this is the perfect opportunity to teach your children some basic financial principles — while getting them the school supplies and clothes that they need.
1. Plan Ahead
Financial planning requires, well, planning. Back to school shopping can teach your children the importance of planning ahead. Show them how to go through their things and figure out what they already have. Then, help them make a list of their intended purchases. Next, if they are old enough, go through sales fliers and look for coupons that match the items on the list. You want to teach them that, by planning ahead, they can help their money go a little further. You can also teach your children to comparison shop by checking prices around town, and even by shopping online.
Rather than just buy everything on the list, discuss budgeting with your children. Explain that your household runs on a budget, and that Mom and Dad have to stay within a budget as well. Then explain that back to school shopping comes with its own budget, and that getting everything on the list may not be possible. Let your children know what their back to school budget will be, and then help them go through the list and estimate whether or not everything will fit within that budget, and where they might need to cut back in order to save more money.
3. Financial Priorities
We don’t always get everything we want in life. A very important money lesson is that children can learn through back to school shopping is that there are needs and there are wants, and these need to be properly prioritized. Your child may need a new binder for school, but a $75 pair of jeans is a want (especially when there are perfectly good jeans available for $19.99). Help your child go through his or her list and determine which items are most important. Re-shuffle the list so that the most important items are at the top, with the less important items dropping off the bottom. If you explain to your child that the expensive top may mean that he or she can’t get the proper shoes for participation particular school sport, a less expensive shirt suddenly becomes acceptable, since the extracurricular activity may have higher priority.
4. Managing Your Own Money
Many parents like to provide some of the money for their children’s back to school purchases, and then expect their kids to take care of the rest. If your child has an allowance or a part time job, it might be a good idea to put some of the back to school shopping burden on their finances. Be clear in your expectations, and let them know what you are willing to pay for. Perhaps you tell them that you will pay for necessary extracurricular equipment, but your child must buy his or her own new clothes. Other parents say that they will provide a certain amount of money toward back to school shopping, but anything over that amount has to come from the child. Many kids (but not all) suddenly become much more financially responsible when they are spending money they have earned, as opposed to money you are giving them.
This is a guest post Miranda Marquit is a journalistically trained freelance writer and professional blogger working from home. She is a contributor for Mainstreet.com, Personal Dividends and several other sites. Miranda is not affiliated or endorsed by LPL Financial. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information and are not intended to provide specific advice and/or recommendations for any individual.