The start of the back-to-school season can trigger groans from kids — and from your wallet when it's time to go school shopping.
According to the National Retail Federation, the average household will spend $848.90 on clothing, supplies and other items for the 2021 school year. The good news is, that could be the perfect time for a family discussion around how to budget money for kids.
Back to school tips for elementary students
Odds are, your kids already have some experience talking about money if you pay them an allowance. Even if you have younger kids, you can still cover the basics of budgeting 101.
- Explain needs and wants. Some back-to-school supplies are essential, while others are simply nice to have. Learning the difference between needs vs. wants at an early age can make budgeting for kids easier as they become teens and eventually, adults.
- Keep it simple. When you're talking about how to budget money for kids in the elementary school age range, basics are best. Explain that a budget is a balance of two things: how much money you want to spend versus how much money you can afford to spend.
- Make it hands-on. At the elementary level, kids should have basic addition and subtraction skills down pat. A simple way to get kids involved in back-to-school budgeting is to have them keep track of spending. Each time you make a school-related purchase, they can subtract it from your total budget.
Back to school tips for middle and high school students
As kids get older, sending them back to school may get more expensive if you're paying for fancy calculators or laptops. At this stage, you can step up your efforts to make back-to-school budgeting a learning opportunity.
- Compare costs. Younger kids may not make much distinction between prices, but older kids and teens should be able to grasp the difference between a $50 pair of shoes and a pair that costs $200. Before you start back-to-school shopping, have your middle or higher schoolers sit down with you and go through each item on their list to compare pricing at different stores.
- Discuss payment methods. Part of planning how to budget for kids means understanding how different payment methods work. So you may want to talk with older kids about the pros and cons of paying with cash versus a debit card or credit card. Bonus points if you give them a prepaid debit card to make some of their back-to-school purchases.
- Have them chip in. If you have tweens who get allowance or teens who work a part-time job, having them pay for some of their back-to-school shopping can drive home the importance of a budget and managing needs versus wants.