August 7, 2009
As back-to-school shopping veterans, my wife and I have learned our share of money-saving tricks – plus methods to lessen meltdowns and frayed nerves that come with the territory. If you are new to this parental rite of passage or simply looking for a few new strategies, read on.
First, create a realistic budget. Calculate what you can afford to spend on school-related expenses without blowing your overall household budget. Scoring bargains won't help your bottom line if you end up having to pay interest on unpaid balances.
Make a comprehensive shopping list. Gearing up for a new school year involves much more than simply buying a new backpack and a few outfits. Consider these expenses and strategies:
Prioritize. Once you've finalized an overall list, prioritize how to spend your budgeted amount. Get your kids involved in this process so they'll learn the difference between "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves" as well as the art of compromise: If they truly want those designer jeans, together figure out a way they can earn the price difference.
Bargain hunting. After prioritizing expenses, start your research. First, look through the kids' closets to see what's still serviceable. Then:
For help devising a workable budget, visit Visa Inc.'s free personal financial management site, Practical Money Skills for Life. Its Back-to-School Budgeting section contains an interactive budgeting calculator, online shopping tips and much more (http://www.pmsfl.com/personalfinance/savingspending/budgeting/backtoschool.php).
In these lean times, make sure you've got a sound battle plan before entering the back-to-school shopping fray.
Recent Practical Money Matters