If you have a school-age child, you know that back-to-school supplies are a necessity. Thankfully, though, overspending isn’t. In fact, with a little bit of planning, parents can stretch their dollars without sacrificing quality or quantity.
These five smart steps will help you get more bang from your back-to-school bucks.
- Don’t buy what you already own. A survey this past July by the company Deloitte, revealed that 26% of parents with school-age children are planning to reuse last year’s school items. That’s a really smart way to cut costs in a tough economy. So, before heading to the store, be sure to check your drawers and closets (and even under the back seat of the minivan) for back-to-school items that might be usable again this year—things like backpacks, lunch boxes, book covers, pencils, crayons, and glue sticks. Having just one of each of these items could decrease your spending by roughly $40 per child.
Monthly payments become voracious monsters when your income becomes insufficient to make them on time. Living within your means can quickly become a challenge if your income decreases, you encounter emergency expenses, or rapidly increase your debt.
You can, however, meet and conquer this challenge by designing a workable debt management plan. Tame the monthly payment monster by building everyday saving habits and analyzing your current debt structure.
Everyday saving is more habit than science. Living on a budget becomes easier every day that you practice. Unless you are an unusually extravagant spender, there is no magic bullet to save large dollars on a daily basis. However, using simple everyday saving tips will add up to high savings over weeks and, then, months. Here are some simple suggestions to start building your frugal habit.
- Closely track your spending—all of it. The most important habit you can acquire is to keep a small notebook of every penny you spend daily. You may be astonished how your small purchases add up to large dollars over time.
Many people live a tortured existence, fearing four simple words: “Living on a budget.” However, these people can learn to live within budgetary constraints and concentrate on saving money, while enjoying life and all it has to offer. Using a few easy, universal tips are all you need to conquer the fear and cheerily move on. Try these suggestions to make you and your budget smile.
- Start a daily log. Although the magnitude of his genius is astounding, Albert Einstein was an early proponent of the “KIS” (keep it simple) doctrine. To create a budget you can live with blissfully, first start and maintain a simple daily log of your expenditures. All you need is a small notepad, like those used by your favorite TV detectives when interviewing witnesses. You will be amazed, sometimes pleased, sometimes unhappy, often surprised, and always empowered by what you learn. Keeping this log for just a few weeks will teach you how to control your spending.
If you’ve been a parent for even a short amount of time, you’ve probably had someone say your son or daughter has the same smile as you. Or maybe your kids walk or talk like you, or have the same eyes. And doesn’t that make you feel good?
But parents know that their children are taking in so much more than just the way they smile, walk or talk. The fact is your kids are watching everything you do—including the way you handle money. So, if you’re not 100% sure your children are learning the right lessons about saving and spending money, don’t worry. These 5 simple steps will help them make sense of their cents…and their dollars too.
- Going to the bank? Bring your deposit slip and the kids. Depositing money into an actual bank gives your kids a real-life example of mom and dad saving for the future. To make the trip even more meaningful, tell them how good it makes you feel to know there’s money for “a rainy day”.
- I really want it, so I’m going to wait. The next time you’re ready to make an impulse buy, tell your kids something like this, “Even though I really want this, I’m going to wait a day or two and then see if I still feel the same way.” Then wait. This simple step shows that you don’t buy things based on how you’re feeling. And if you don’t buy the item, let your kids know that, too. This teaches another powerful lesson about wanting something vs. needing something.
- Spend less to teach more. Comparing prices is a great way to show kids that you can spend less money and still get a great item. If you’re going to buy a new cell phone, for example, have your kids help with the research. They can look through store circulars and go online to find the lowest price. When you’re ready to make the purchase, bring them with you to the store or have them help with the online order. Coupons and discount codes are other easy ways to save money. Before making your next online purchase, have your son or daughter search the term “discount code” alongside the name of store. For instance, “discount code Toys R Us”. It’s not uncommon to receive free shipping, a percent off your total, or both.
- Encourage your kids to save. Have your child draw a picture of something they want, then help them calculate how much they’ll need to save each week to buy it. Every time they set aside money for that purchase, have them color in a portion of the picture and write down how much they saved that day. These visual reminders show what they’re accomplishing. For older kids, develop a more complex budget, including income from allowance and odd jobs, expenses, and savings. To encourage them to save for the item, tell them you’ll give them one dollar for every dollar they save.
- Give an allowance to teach money management. Most experts agree that an allowance is probably the single best tool for helping kids learn money management. It shifts some spending decisions from you to your child; it reduces the need for the child to have to ask for money; and it provides a way for kids to learn about saving money and spending it wisely.
So the next time someone says your child has your spouse’s laugh and not yours, you can still be happy knowing you’re helping your kids become smart spenders and super savers. That’s something everyone can smile about.