Making back-to-school shopping affordable

  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dear Liz,

I saw a news report about the cost of going back to school for the average family (public school) was close to $700! What?

Can you please research this and explain it to me to get my heart back in my chest where it belongs? We have three children of school age: kindergarten, second and third grade.

I do know it has been getting more costly but I wasn't prepared for that figure!! Help!!???

Budget mommy

Dear “Budget Mommy,”

I heard the same report, and coming from a school counselor perspective and having grandchildren in public school – well, I think everyone was saying, “what?!” So here's the scoop.

The National Retail Federation recently released the results of a multi-year study on what parents pay for school and other related supplies.

According to the study, here's how much U.S. parents of kids in K through 12th grade plan to spend getting their kids ready to go back to school:

Clothing: $246 (22.5 percent wore school uniforms)

Shoes: $129

School Supplies: $95

Electronics or computer-related equipment: $218

The average amount parents planned to spend? More than $688. That's about $85 more than last year. Retailers note, school-year spending is the second largest retail boom only edged out by winter holiday spending.

Is there any underlying issue we have as parents or grandparents?

Is it “keeping up with the Joneses” down the street? Do we as parents feel peer pressure to keep our kids' images good? Hopefully it is reasonable, loving concern for the comfort and welfare of our kids. And that they have been taught values that include that name-brand labels don't give us worth!

The good news out of the report was that there are more avenues parents can choose to maximize their dollars.

The report noted that compared to previous years, 51 percent are relying on more sales, 36 percent are using coupons, 32 percent are doing price comparisons online and 14 percent are utilizing the great value of thrift and resale stores. Some schools even have a fundraiser event where kids bring outgrown uniforms for others to purchase.

One last thought. As kids mature, I believe in giving them budgets for items, so they have the power to choose between, say, one pair of the name-brand cool shoes that have to last all year and might possibly be stolen versus getting a less cool style that does the job and have more money for variety or other needs.

It is a great time to help your kids develop savvy spending and saving skills while still looking good and having the tools they need to learn. It is an exciting time, so enjoy it while being smart in the checkout line!

Please send your questions and comments to asksharpliz@ gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Masters-level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health including serving as a school counselor, and as a consultant and mediator. Liz is known for her many years as a TV news and weather broadcaster, and longtime columnist for the Lowcountry Sun.

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