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Make budget, list for school shopping
RAYMOND, Miss. -- Back-to-school supplies can often include expensive items that can blow the family budget, but a little preparation can help keep the cost down.
Susan Cosgrove, financial management agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Newton County, said families often overlook these expenses when preparing the family budget.
“Back-to-school shopping is a huge expense and one that most families may not include in their budget,” Cosgrove said. “Most families will have many items on the shopping list, such as clothing, shoes, electronics, computer-related equipment, and sports or hobby gear.”
The best approach for tackling school shopping is to begin by taking an inventory to determine which items are still usable and which items can be donated or sold. Parents and children then can make a list of the items they need to purchase and establish a budget.
“Shopping with a list and sticking to a realistic, predetermined budget gives kids hands-on experience with money management,” Cosgrove said. “This can also help children differentiate between needs and wants.”
To keep expenses in check, consider buying just the items children need to begin the school year.
“Determine which items you can delay purchasing,” Cosgrove said. “For example, your child doesn’t need a winter coat in August. By dividing the clothes shopping list over several months, the expenses will be spread out and much more affordable.”
Teresa Lyle, MSU Extension family consumer science agent and county coordinator in Leake County, said parents should review the school’s dress code and candidly discuss the shopping rules with their children before heading to the store.
“A good way to give kids more control of the clothes shopping experience is to use the envelope system,” Lyle said. “Put cash that is allotted for each child into separate envelopes and let them buy the clothing on their list. Once the cash is gone, no more money can be spent. Kids understand cash, even younger children.
“As kids get older, they will insist on having the latest and greatest. Let them choose two items that they can’t live without, such as a backpack or binder, and purchase the rest of their supplies at bargain prices,” Lyle said.
Allowing children to spend some of their own money on items they want also is a good way to teach them the value of money, Lyle said.
For the best shopping experience, dress comfortably and choose a time when parents and children are not hungry or tired.
“Try to make it fun,” Lyle said. “Make a day of it by having breakfast or lunch out if you can. Stick to your list and your budget, and keep your children as involved as possible. It’s a great opportunity to teach them money management skills.”
By planning ahead, parents can comparison shop and watch for sales and coupons.
Some clothing and footwear that cost less than $100 will be exempt from sales tax during the state’s sales tax holiday, which begins at 12:01 a.m. July 31 and ends at midnight Aug. 1. For more information and a detailed list of eligible and ineligible items, visit https://www.dor.ms.gov/secondsalestaxholiday.html.