The global pandemic has already transformed schooling in Canada and around the world. Boards, teachers, children, and parents prepare for a different school year during which they either stay home or attend classes every other day. Budgeting for back to school has also become important as many parents face financial hardship and challenging times ahead.
How Spending Patterns Have Changed
It does not come as a surprise that Canadian parents spend less on back-to-school supplies this year. A survey by the Retail Council of Canada shows that the percentage of shoppers who spent more than $0 dropped across different categories in 2020 – 81 percent for supplies compared to 86 percent in 2019, 69 percent for apparel compared to 78 percent, and 33 percent for books and movies, down from 35 percent. According to Suzan Krecsy, executive director of the St. Albert Food Bank, parents need about $1,000 to prepare kids for the new school year which is a lot of money for those who are unemployed or have low incomes.
Save Money on Back-to-School Supplies
A new Deloitte survey asked parents how much they would spend on supplies and other items that kids need in grade K-12 this year. On average, parents said that they would spend $316 on online subscriptions and electronic gadgets, $395 on hardware and computers, $216 on clothing and apparel, and $102 on supplies. This is a lot of money. On top of this, parents are stocking on wide-mouth water bottles, facemasks, hand sanitizers, and other items they would have never thought of buying before the pandemic.
Obviously, supplies can be expensive when all purchases add up, from new uniforms and clothes to pencils, erasers, highlighters, and index cards. Shopping out of season is one way to save money as once the new school year starts, retail stores discount all the folders, notebooks, pencil sharpeners, and markers.
To save money on back-to-school supplies, it also pays to shop around, check flyers, use coupons, and make a list of stores to visit and benefit from the best deals they have on offer. Sales are also posted daily online.
If your children need big-ticket items such as a laptop or tablet to do their homework, it also pays to ask the principal if they have a budget for this or electronics that you can borrow. If this is not the case, visit stores that advertise educational discounts or offer refurbished devices.
Include Your Kids in Back to School Budget Planning
Ask your children to go through what they have from last year as some items can be reused, whether markers, erasers, or pencil cases. Sit together and make a list of all the items they will need, depending on age and grade. In kindergarten, for example, your kids will need things like glue sticks, colored pencils, crayons, and assorted construction paper. Children in grades 1 – 3 use index cards, rulers, pencil grips, pencils, and washable markers. The list is quite long for students in high school and middle school. They need graph paper, loose-leaf paper, highlighters, plastic folders, book socks, etc. Go through all the items that you have at home to find out if they can be reused. If you have children in different grades, you probably have plenty of stuff that younger kids can reuse.
Asking children what they find important can also save a lot of money. They might be more than happy to reuse their backpack or lunch box from last year. This is also a good way to teach them how to budget and handle money. Learning about budgeting, spending, and saving early in life helps children to make informed financial decisions later on. They have the skills for successful financial interactions.
Teach Kids to Manage Finances
Involving children in back-to-school shopping is also a good way to teach them how to manage personal finances. Many Canadians lost their jobs and live with uncertainty but this is not the main lesson that you want to teach your children. Making responsible choices and spending decisions is the lesson that you would like to stick with school-aged children. This is also a way to encourage kids to distinguish between wants and needs.
Teaching children to manage finances also helps them to learn how to delay gratification and wait to buy the things they want. In fact, this concept is difficult not only for kids but for grown-ups of all ages. It pays to start early, and back-to-school shopping definitely helps parents teach kids important money lessons. When going to the store together, only pick things that you have on your list. This helps children learn not to buy things for the sake of buying which is basically splurging. When going to a store to buy a gift for someone, tell your kids that you are not there to buy things that they just spotted but only that gift.
Other ways to teach children about finances are to ask them to set goals, create sharing, spending, and saving jars, and involve children in money decisions and your family budget. Always tell them how much you have for leisure activities and entertainment, be it board games, toys, movies, or anything else. You can also try to come up with a family goal that they like and keep track of how close you are to achieving this goal. You may want to create a progress chart and ask kids to color in so that you can all check where you stand.
Save for Your Child’s Postsecondary Education
Budgeting for back to school also helps save for university or college, provided that you plan to fund your child’s postsecondary education. Unless you run a successful business or are really well paid, you have to give up on something, be it your retirement savings or things that are not worth splurging on. Saving on supplies can also help fund college education, especially if done on a year-to-year basis. To this, it is a good idea to create a back to school budget and compare what you spend and save each year. The first step is to list all essential items and decide what you can buy later and what is a must. You can buy non-essential items when you find good deals /for example, off season/. Next, you should check how much money you have. Add up your monthly income and expenses such as utility bills, rent, grocery shopping, loan and credit card balances, etc. Look at how much you have left after you deduct all expenses and compare this figure to the total cost of school supplies on your list. This will show you whether you might have to put any items on your credit card. If so, go through your shopping list once again to decide which items are must-haves. If you need extra money to buy back-to-school supplies, this shows that you might have to start saving for next year early on.