For tweens and teens, back to school means picking up schedules, decorating lockers and figuring out who has the same lunch period. For parents, back to school can mean watching the dollars fly out the door. The National Retail Foundation estimates that parents spend more than $668 per child on back to school expenses.
Back to school season provides parents with several teachable moments to talk to their kids about money, spending, and budgeting.
* Give them an allowance for back to school items.
Older kids can learn valuable budgeting lessons with back to school shopping. Discuss the agreed-upon expenditures they are to make with the money. I find with my kid that if I tell her she can keep any money that is left over after her purchases, she becomes a very motivated deal finder.
One mom agreed to her eighth grader's request for a $100 allowance for the entire school year, and she was surprised by the result. Her daughter learned to budget, returned items that were spur of the moment splurges, found free activities to enjoy with her friends and sought out opportunities to earn additional spending money. You can read about her experience on Scary Mommy - Part I is here and Part II is here.
You and your child may not be ready for quite that level of budgeting, but giving responsibility for a few purchases and the ability to see what a little effort can save, is worth doing.
* Discuss the budget with your kids. Older kids can and should have an idea of what items cost.
Don't leave out items like school fees, extracurricular expenses, etc.
Our kids will be in the real world soon enough, and this is another good chance to discuss budget. Chances are they'll be surprised at how quickly everything adds up.
Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll even take science class a bit more seriously when they realize that there is a lab fee for it. Maybe not, but parents can dream, can't they?
Awareness is a good first step to learning how to budget.
* Ask them for their money saving ideas.
Tweens and teens are certainly not easy, but they're also pretty smart, too. Ask your child if they have any idea for being more frugal this school year. They may just surprise you with what they say.
When talking about ways to save money with your tween, one good topic to start with is lunch. (Remember the school lunch budget debacle we had at our house last year?) The school lunch indulgences can add up quickly. This is a great opportunity to talk about how healthy choices are best for their body and the budget.
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Find the entire Back to School series here.
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