Saving Money on Back to School
The end of the summer is in sight: Back-to-school sales have hit the stores.
According to Google's Insights for Search, people have begun thinking about the back-to-school season earlier this year, with searches up 10 percent by mid-July compared to last year. And not surprisingly, discounted and free supplies are in the top 10 list of school-related searches.
A recent survey by consulting firm Deloitte found that economic conditions are forcing 70 percent of consumers to change their shopping habits this season, including buying more items on sale and heading to less-expensive stores. About one-third plan to buy more private-label brands, and nearly half said they would spend less on shoes.
To help you stick to your budget, we turned to Todd Mark, vice president of education for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas, for advice:
Budget with the kids: Parents will often spend on their children even when they're scrimping on themselves. Not only is it difficult to say no to your kids, but Todd said some parents hope that buying a Hannah Montana notebook might entice their kids to study harder. Myth, myth, myth.
Todd recommends explaining your budget to your children in an age-appropriate way and then enlisting their help to meet the goal. Get their input on what's worth an investment and where to cut back -- all the while showing them that tradeoffs must be made, Todd said.
“Back to school shopping truly is a teaching experience for the kids themselves,” he said.
Don't open up a credit card. Stores try to lure customers by offering discounts for signing up for their credit card. Don't fall for it. Even if you pay off your purchase right away, your credit score could still take a hit. And saving a couple of bucks is rarely worth that.
“Credit cards aren’t meant to be used as a coupon," Todd advised.
If you really do need more credit, shop around for a card with the best rates and benefits. Don't just react spontaneously to a store promotion, he said.
Take inventory. Round up last year's pencils, notebooks and folders to see if anything can be re-used. Todd also suggests swapping clothes or supplies with friends. (Hmmm, I'm thinking a tween slumber party and clothing swap could be a great way to end the summer!)
Todd acknowledges that sticking to a budget through back-to-school season can be tough: “It’s no different than at Christmas when people think that money equals love."
His comment made me think about something my grandma once told me. I was complaining about how expensive things are in the Washington area and the amount of money my friends spend on day care, schools and extra-curriculars for their kids. How could I ever afford to have children and give them all the advantages that I was fortunate enough to have growing up?
And my grandma, a child of the Depression, very simply responded, "Ylan, all they really need is you."
July 23, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Bargains , Consumer News , Ylan Q. Mui
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