K-State Research and Extension News
July 22, 2010
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Tips for Parents: For Back-to-School Shopping, Sort Needs, Wants

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Families often are not aware that back-to-school spending typically rivals financial demands during the holiday season. Many also may not have planned ahead, said Kansas State University’s Carol Young, who encourages parents to check enrollment costs, activity and other fees such as the cost of school lunch, transportation and dress code before shopping.

"Identifying fixed costs can help to relieve some financial pressure for parents," said Young, who is financial management specialist with K-State Research and Extension.  She explained that managing back-to-school expenses also provides educational opportunities to help children learn to separate needs from wants.

* Check school enrollment information to see if students qualify for reduced enrollment fees.

* Check to see if children have required immunizations, and, if not, contact the health department or health care provider to make arrangements to meet the requirements.

* Assess the cost of activities such as rental fees for band instruments, cost to buy sports shoes, or a blazer to be worn for a singing group. Travel to and from practices, out-of-town games, tournaments or other events add costs. 

* Take inventory; check school supplies from last year, including condition of backpack, lunch bag or box.

* Make a list of each child's needs and focus spending on what matters most. Shoes that fit are a health and safety issue. 

* Spread out spending. For example, buy two, rather than several, pairs of jeans or khaki pants for a child who's growing rapidly and plan to replace them in a few months. Remember that some items go on sale soon after the back-to-school rush, and others, such as a winter jacket, will go on sale early in the season.

* Consider alternative shopping opportunities, such as a neighborhood exchange or thrift store offering gently-used merchandise at bargain prices. If children want high-priced extras, suggest they begin saving to cover the cost.

* Shop when stores are least crowded (early morning, after supper or on a weekday), and consider shopping with each child individually to allow time for nurturing a relationship while accomplishing a necessary task.

* Ask about return policies before buying, and keep receipts in an envelope.

More money management tips are available at local K-State Research and Extension offices and online: www.ksre.ksu.edu/financialmanagement/.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Nancy Peterson
K-State Research & Extension News

Carol Young is at 785-532-5773