Back-to-School Shopping Without Breaking the Bank

This year, instead of frustration, opt for cooperation from your school-aged kids

By Dr. Chris Mendoza, Director of Latino Markets at MassMutual
Published on LatinoLA: August 22, 2015

Back-to-School Shopping Without Breaking the Bank

It seems like the summer is just getting going, and already it's time to start thinking about back to school. For many families, back to school shopping may also mean whining children and nagging parents arguing over an endless list of electronics, expensive sneakers, and the like.

This year, instead of frustration, opt for cooperation from your school-aged kids. As in most Hispanic households, the Mom is more often than not the main economic and financial educators of the household. Back-to-school time is a big buying season with lots of "special offers" from retailers, so take the opportunity to teach your children lessons about bargain-hunting and budgeting. Since the purchases will be for them, they have a vested interest in paying attention!

MassMutual offers the following tips for back to school shopping without breaking the bank:

1. Develop a budget and decide how much money is available for back-to-school purchases. If your children are old enough, you may want to involve them in this part of the process. If they have jobs, you may need to hammer out how much of their own money they will contribute, and how much you will supply.

2. Draw up a list of your children's needs and wants. Begin by explaining the difference between needs and wants. A need is something you have to have, while a want is something optional. Uniforms, if your child's school requires them, are a need. Shoes are a need. A name-brand purse or a video game, on the other hand, is a want. Also, be sure to check the website of your child's school district for lists of required supplies for each grade level to avoid purchasing that "wrong brand or model" or something that is not needed at all.

3. Check out the back-to-school advertisements and coupons in newspapers and circulars. You might also want to check the classifieds for used items. Next to each item on the list, write down the best price found and where you found it. Total up the dollar amounts and compare your total with the budget you've set.

4. Keep a running tally and make adjustments as you go along. If you're overspending, you'll have to cut back someplace. If you're under budget, you've got a little more to spend on the remaining items.

5. Consider buying a few items before school starts to be prepared but wait until school is fully back in session to purchase some of the clothes and other apparel-related items  particularly if your children are transitioning schools (elementary to middle school for instance)  so that your children have an opportunity to determine what the latest trends are and have some spending money already set aside for this purpose.

Don't forget to heap on the praise and encouragement for your children's hard work. If they're acting grown-up and responsible, be sure to comment on it. And notice how well they take care of their things when they've had to work and plan to get them!

While your family thinks about back to school budgeting and plans, consider applying those same skills to your household's finances. To learn more or access helpful materials, speak with a local financial professional or

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