With all the marketing these days, it’s easy to get caught up in the impression that everybody is doing crazy amounts of back-to-school shopping. The media blasts ads, stores run sales, and everybody is telling you what the must-have back-to-school items and fashions are.
But the truth is, back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to cost as much as you think it does.
The folks at Deloitte did a back-to-school spending survey, and the average amount people expected to spend was $501 per child.
Meanwhile, I spent $33.76
You guys, let’s stop getting caught up in the idea that our kids need ALL THE THINGS in order to go back to school. While I get that we want our kids to be excited about the beginning of a new year, teaching them that they need a bunch of brand-new things also sends them the wrong message.
The only back-to-school shopping I did this year was for my son’s school supplies. I went to one store (I hate trying to shop the sales) and bought everything I needed that we didn’t already have at home.
Honestly, a lot of stuff will be re-used. Last year’s backpack had been a hand-me-down from his daddy, and it’s still in good enough shape to use this year. So is his pencil box, his winter coat, and his main lunch box. At one point I thought we’d replace his second lunch box because it was gross, but I threw it in the washing machine and it came out just fine. I’m pretty sure we can eek a few more months out of it and then replace it if need be.
As far as clothes, we’ve gone through his dresser and he’s got plenty of items to start the year. Once it gets cool he’ll probably need a couple more pairs of long pants, so I’ll just watch out for good deals in the meantime. But he certainly doesn’t need a special outfit for the first day, or picture day, or any other day really.
I understand that older kids need more expensive school supplies, that some kids go through growth spurts and need an entirely new wardrobe by September, or that the pressure to fit in is different in high school than it is in elementary. For some families, spending $34 to send their kids back to school isn’t possible. But instead of blindly following the clever marketing ploy that is “back-to-school,” be intentional about your spending and see if there are places you can reasonably make cuts.
- Can you re-use some things from last year? If they’re still in good condition, it’s an opportunity to teach your child a lesson about waste, financial wisdom, and consumerism.
- Does your child need some new clothes? Remember the 80/20 rule – we wear about 20% of our wardrobes 80% of the time. For kids, this is probably closer to 90/10. They don’t need as many clothes as you think they do – they’re only going to wear their favorites, anyway.
- Spread out your spending throughout the year. Just a few short months after September is Christmas. At some point your child has a birthday. These are all prime opportunities to get them clothes, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, or other supplies. You don’t have to buy everything all at once for the whole year, and getting “everyday” items as gifts on special days helps teach kids a lesson in gratitude.
- Use back-to-school shopping as an opportunity to teach your older kids money management. Give them a lump sum that you feel is more than reasonable for their back-to-school needs, and tell them that if they come in under budget they can keep the rest. Let them learn to prioritize which things deserve to be splurged on – or whether last year’s supplies are suddenly sufficient!
If you love back-to-school shopping and have the means, enjoy it. But if you feel like you can’t keep up, stop trying. While the average family spends $501, remember that’s average. Some families spend more, and some families spend less.
I spent less than $34, and while I could have afforded to spend more, I intentionally chose not to. There are far more valuable things I’d like to spend my money on – and far more valuable lessons I’d like to teach my kids.
How much does your family spend on back-to-school shopping?
Do you need help learning how to effectively manage money so you can teach your kids to manage theirs? Stop the cycle of struggle. Crown Financial Ministries has some great, FREE resources available to AllMomDoes readers – check them out here! You can do this, mom!