Tim Sheehan is the co-founder and CEO of Greenlight, a debit card for kids that their parents can manage.
He says that back-to-school shopping season is a great way to teach children about budgeting and money by letting them take the lead.
Create clear budgets with kids, help them assess what they already have, help them bargain shop, and have them handle checkout.
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It’s that time of year again — back-to-school season is in full force, and families around the country are flocking to stores with their shopping lists in hand. According to the National Retail Federation, families with children in elementary school through high school will spend a record amount of money this year.
Back-to-school shopping presents a great opportunity to teach kids about money and the importance of budgeting. Putting kids in the driver’s seat (with some adult supervision, of course!) can help instill ownership and prompt first-hand lessons in trade-off decisions.
1. Start with a budget
According to Deloitte’s 2019 Back-to-School Survey, the average family will spend $519 per child on supplies, electronics, apparel, and accessories for the new school year. That seems like a lot of money to me, but the important thing is to set a budget and ask your child to stick to it. My wife and I have found it helpful to give our kids two budgets: one for school supplies and one for clothes (because kids grow so quickly and we tend to review our kids’ clothes situation when they’re headed back to school). We use Greenlight to give each child their budgeted amounts so they are responsible for making sure they get what they need, and don’t run out of money.
2. Review the list (and then take inventory)
Have your kids take inventory of what they already have and what they need for next year, running through the essentials such as pencils, notebooks, and a backpack. We like to have our kids spread their things out on the kitchen table or their beds to spark conversation about what’s essential to purchase new this year versus what’s nice to have. So much of back-to-school shopping is around assessing need versus want, and we like to have that conversation with the kids before we hit the stores.
3. Bargain shop online
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images
Sometimes the best deals are online. I like to take the shopping list and sit with my kids to hunt for great/low prices on Amazon, Walmart.com, or other sites. It’s sometimes easier to keep them focused at the house versus the crowded aisles of a big-box store. Online shopping also helps combat the availability of name-brand items, which may be limited in stores.
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