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Delay Purchases To Ease Burden of School Expenses
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Back-to-school expenses can knock the wind out of some families' bank accounts, but delaying some purchases can help soften the blow.
School supplies, clothes and fees can add up to staggering levels if families try to address all back-to-school needs in August, according to Dr. Beverly R. Howell, extension family economics and management specialist at Mississippi State University.
"Clothing is probably the biggest of the back-to-school expenses," Howell said. "Clothing is also one of the easiest expenses to spread out during the school year."
When most parents were growing up, they started school later in the year with new fall clothes. Today's students start much earlier and can usually wear the same clothes they were wearing at the end of the previous school year.
"Clothing budgets for older children can be very educational and beneficial for the family budget as well," Howell said. "Give older children a budget and let them make purchase decisions. Encourage them to look for quality and durability."
Shopping trips for school supplies can be educational for younger children. Teach them to compare costs and quality and to follow lists.
Cash needs vary from school to school and grade to grade. Tuition, room and book fees, and costs for extracurricular activities can mean larger cash demands than planned. Other potential expenses include locker fees, yearbooks, parking fees, class rings, drivers' education costs and lunch money.
"Extracurricular activities can be very expensive. There is nothing wrong with reasonably transferring some of the responsibility to the student," Howell said. "Older children involved in more expensive activities can work odd jobs to support some of their interests."
Howell said setting priorities can eliminate some expenses that might not be worth the cost to the student.
"It's also important to set ground rules so children understand their responsibility for their possessions," Howell said. "What if expensive shoes or a band instrument are lost or stolen? Children have to learn to take care of their possessions."