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Annual back-to-school shopping can put a strain on any family’s budget. Considering today’s economic situation with rising fuel, energy and food prices – smart planning and shopping are essential. Back-to-school shopping presents a perfect opportunity and a real-life situation to discuss finances with your children. Here are some tips to get you started;

Get Organized: Take an afternoon and assess each child’s clothing needs. Empty drawers and closets of outgrown or worn-out clothing, and either store or donate the discards. Working with your child, clean and organize clothing storage before new garments are added.

Create a Needs List: Develop a wardrobe needs list for each child filling in the gaps of the acceptable clothing they already have. Check for possible hand-me-downs from older siblings as you make your list. Stick to your list.

Be Prepared: Get a classroom supply lists before shopping for school supplies. Do shop early for supplies! With back-to-school sales beginning in mid-July, late shoppers have a tough time locating needed supplies among September’s Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations.

Create a Budget: Use this as an opportunity to teach budgeting skills. Tell your kids how much money you have to spend, and let them participate in the decision-making process. Even young children understand the concept of money. Older kids can be given a clothing allowance for them to spend as they wish. Anything they want over and above their allowance should be paid for by babysitting, mowing lawns, etc. Creating a budget together will also help prevent in-store disputes.

Shop Thrifty: Shop thrift stores and resale shops. Jeans, jackets, shoes, and shirts can be found for $1-$5 per item at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. Many times shops like these even have half-price or bag days where you can save even more. If you shop frequently, you most likely will be able to find the brand names your kids are looking for. Resale shops like Plato’s Closetare also a new trend — they specialize in the desired brand names tweens and teenagers are searching for. No one will ever know that their “new” Abercrombie sweatshirt was second-hand!

Use coupons wherever possible. Try an online site like Coupon Mountain or Coupon Cabin. Don’t forget about the coupons that you can find in the daily newspaper.

Avoid purchasing clothing for the entire school year. You will need to purchase different items as the seasons change. Try purchasing an outfit or two to start the school year and then hit the mid-September clearance sales to save even more.

For more money saving tips or ideas on talking to your kids about money visit our website.

Published Jul 24, 2008.