‘Back to School’ Doesn’t Have to Be ‘Back to Broke’ with These Tips

by July 25, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Slowly but surely, “Back to School” displays are popping up in stores. But if back to school means back to budget woes, one University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) personal finance expert has tips to help stretch a dollar.

Adding up all the costs – supplies, clothes, shoes and electronics – highlights how expensive it can be to go to school. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2013 Back-to-School Survey, families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78. Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion.

While the NRF said that spending is slightly down from last year, UAB School of Business Instructor Elizabeth Turnbull, M.B.A., explained that planning and preparation can help further reduce money spent.

“When the list of required supplies comes in from teachers, try calling a parent whose child recently graduated that grade,” Turnbull suggested. “Often they will be able to share if their child used all items from day one of the school year, or if some can be purchased later on.”

Other ways to not strain the budget include getting the kids involved with the shopping and savings.

“Set your budget amount and have kids who are old enough gather weekly sales fliers or go online and see if they can find all items under budget,” Turnbull said. “If they can, let them keep the difference or receive a treat – this gives them incentive to find it cheap and it teaches them budgeting.”

Another frugal game can include reusing items that may not need replaced each year, like a backpack or lunch bag.

“Offer kids an incentive to reuse old items to get more use out of pricier items,” Turnbull said.

Other tips include:• Use promotional products like pens and stationary that are already lying around the house • Buy in bulk with other families and split the cost; if you have multiple kids, keep a school supply basket or closet to save bulk items• Instead of buying new art supplies, go through crayons and markers the kids already use at home • Do not forget stores where everything costs a dollar; they often will have school supplies• Purchase supplies that do not have famous cartoon characters; plain is often cheaper

“The website Pinterest can help offer tips on jazzing up plain items purchased,” Turnbull added. “It can be fun to get together with other parents and their kids to personalize supplies.”

Turnbull said the more the kids are involved with purchasing, the better off they are for the future.

“The earlier you can figure out how to get them to budget, the better they’ll be in the long run when it comes to their own personal finances,” she said.

About UABKnown for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama’s largest employer with some 23,000 employees and an economic impact exceeding $5 billion annually on the state. •The five pillars of UAB’s mission deliver knowledge that will change your world: the education of students, who are exposed to multidisciplinary learning and a new world of diversity; research, the creation of new knowledge; patient care, the outcome of ‘bench-to-bedside’ translational knowledge; service to the community at home and around the globe, from free clinics in local neighborhoods to the transformational experience of the arts; and the economic development of Birmingham and Alabama. Learn more at www.uab.edu.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all consecutive references.

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