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Back-to-School Shopping and How to Plan for It

Written by Pierre Chauvin

Monday, July 29th, 2019

Before you know it, it's going to be time to go back to school, and for many families, that means the stress of shopping for school supplies will be returning as well.

Between textbooks, clothes and the occasional laptop computer, going back to school can be expensive! A 2017 Angus Reid study estimated that a Canadian family spends, on average, $883 per child on school-related purchases during this period. And according to Ernst & Young, that number is increasing.

Planning Your Back-to-School Shopping Budget

“The key is to plan your back-to-school season well." explains Anne-Bianca Morissette, an analyst with the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) Board of Financial Education.

“We suggest that people plan it in order to avoid bad financial surprises." she says.

Start by drawing up a summary of expenses, then create a back-to-school budget and stick to it.

“We often get carried away with unexpected purchases, but we should stick to the budget." explains Morissette.

Going back to school is a recurring event, so one possibility is to open a savings account in which you can set some money aside throughout the year in order to better absorb back-to-school costs.

Helpful Tips to Avoid Overspending

Back-to-school planning begins… at home.

“A good way to get started is to inventory the supplies left from the previous year." suggests Morissette.

School supply lists are available well before going back to school, so you can take your time to shop around for what you need.

“It's a good idea to avoid hasty shopping and, instead, to compare prices, and take time to look for sales. This strategy can allow you to spread your expenses over the whole summer and take advantage of discounts." Morissette advises.

And don't forget to shop for used textbooks, which can spare a good chunk of your budget.

Use Back-to-School Shopping as a Teachable Moment

Back-to-school season is also a good time to devote to financial education with your family.

“We know that going back to school often equals new clothes and new shoe." says Morissette. “It's the perfect opportunity to show your kids how to make choices and to explain that you have a budget and that money is a limited resource."

According to Morissette, when children take part in decisions related to budgets, they're usually more inclined to go along with their parents decisions.

“If you start doing it as soon as your children are old enough to understand, it will help them learn to be careful and think before they buy," she concludes.

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