Buying school supplies is a great way to give your kids regular responsibility

by | Homeschooling Financial Education, Kids, Money and Responsibility, Money attitudes and habits

buying school suppliesBuying school supplies is a problem for parents of school-age kids. The majority (70%) of parents say back-to-school shopping is stressful, according to a new survey from Coinstar. 

As a parent you can give your kids real money management experience by giving them the responsibility for buying their school supplies. 

Buying school supplies gives them an important yearly responsibility, that is, equipping themselves for their day job—getting an education.  

By transferring a spending plan (budget) to your kids account, your family can reduce or eliminate many issues with back-to-school shopping.

A survey by Harvester Credit Union is from 2018, but not likely to have changed much.

  • Parents seem most irritated by financial concerns, including when kids want a name brand that’s not in the budget (17%), want too many impulse items (16%) or can’t agree on the budget (11%).
  • Half of parents find shopping for clothing and shoes a particular problem, while 30% of teens most dread shopping for school supplies.
  • Meanwhile, 20% of teens said they are annoyed that their parents waited too long, 15% are irritated they can’t get a name brand and 10% are frustrated that their parents rush through stores.

Buying school supplies plan

You and your kids can work together to determine what will be included in the school spending plan. Start with a discussion by reviewing the school list.

Create a list together with approximate costs. Then you let your child decide on how to manage the fund for school supplies. 

Note: This school supplies fund does not include clothing. That can be a separate negotiation, but starting with supplies is definitive and an easier check list for kids to manage.

As parent, you are the purchasing facilitator for younger kids. The kids add up their purchases and subtract the total from their accounts. Just like a debit card. Older kids can use their debit or credit cards connected to financial accounts. 

School is your child’s job and offers a meaningful opportunity to manage a specific fund each year.  Kids who manage a spending plan for a specific will:

  • Better understand how much supplies cost
  • Know that jobs require supplies 
  • Make spending choices within the fund
  • Manage supply spending each year

In addition to making money decisions, the reality of being in control adds an ownership factor that doesn’t happen when parents make all the purchases. It is a subtle lesson, yet children who buy pencils with money they control may not lose them as often.

At some point your kids figure out that money can be manipulated within the fund. One of my daughters loved buying “the coolest” pencils, so she bought cheaper notebooks.

One requirement is that the kids must obtain all the supplies on the required list. They can inventory what they have, decide to re-use some items, and meet the requirement without spending money from the fund. A bonus for the kids buying school supplies is they get to keep any money remaining in the fund, rewarding them for being thrifty.

The school supplies spending plan would be one of a variety of funds that a child manages in their account.  A mid-year schools supplies plan may be necessary during the year, again determined through negotiations with your kids. 

When parents set up a kid-controlled money management system kids develop their decision-making simply because there are many opportunities to make decisions. Your child will learn to think about how and when to spend, while buying the items will teach your child about costs and value. 

Because the school fund is transferred in addition to allowance money, it becomes part of a larger total. Your kids are now learning how to manage money for both fun and necessary expenses.

Learning to manage money is a skill that evolves over time. Buying school expenses is a fact of life for children and an excellent tool for helping them gain money management skills.

Anecdote: Back-to-school shopping brings memories of seeing my kids pouring over sales flyers and making shopping lists. They wanted to get the most for the least, knowing they could keep any money not spent from their school supplies fund.

Anecdote: As part of school shopping, my daughter bought her son a winter jacket she expected to last two years. Her 11-year-old son came home from school one day telling her that he lost it. He then surprised her by saying that he would replace it using his own money! Of course, he found the cheapest jacket, but showed that he accepted financial responsibility for losing it.

In my book, “The No-Cash Allowance,” I explain how children as young as pre-school can learn how to manage money day-to-day, how to use and keep track of cashless spending and make responsible spending choices. Buy Now

When your kids control their school supplies fund, they become better money managers.

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