Back-to-school TV ads, billboards and online marketing campaigns are tough to miss. And if you’re a parent, chances are you spend the weeks before September fretting over a long shopping list.
But Toronto-based financial consultant, Leslie-Anne Scorgie, says back-to-school shopping shouldn’t be a rush job. In fact, Scorgie says, it should happen throughout the year.
When is the best time to do back-to-school shopping?
Scorgie says parents should keep an eye on sales throughout the year, so that back-to-school time is less stressful and costly. In particular, she suggests buying school supplies around June.
“End of school is the best time to shop for back-to-school,” she said, explaining that’s when most basic school items go on sale.
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For clothes, she suggested that parents buy things as they go on sale, which often happens at the end of seasons. She noted that it’s important parents buy clothes proactively, knowing that children’s clothing sizes change quickly.
But Toronto-based writer and mom-of-three, Emma Waverman, says shopping right after school ends may be smart in theory, but it’s difficult.
READ MORE: Back-to-school shopping can cost even more than holiday shopping, survey reveals
“Nobody wants to go and buy pens, pencils and a protractor in July,” she laughs, although she does agree that not all shopping for the school year needs to be right before school starts.
Shopping for clothing and electronics
Scorgie says clothing and electronics are the “pressure points” when it comes to parents’ budgets, and they’re not always necessary purchases.
“School is not a fashion show,” Scorgie reminds parents. “Kids are there to learn.”
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But, both Scorgie and Waverman agree kids will realistically want to show up to school with the latest fashion and gadgets.
“I’m a big proponent of having kids allocate some of their allowance for back-to-school clothes,” the consultant says.
READ MORE: Back-to-school tips for every age, stage and milestone
That’s something Waverman says she does now that her children, aged 11, 14 and 17, are a little older.
“There’s always trendy items you have to set a limit for, or have them buy out of their allowance.”
For electronics, Scorgie suggests buying second-hand items and having kids share. She added that kids usually don’t need tablets and cellphones for school, so it’s important to do some fact-checking on what your kids are insisting they need.
What should you buy?
Waverman said her family makes sure there’s no overbuying or duplicating by doing an inventory before going shopping.
Scorgie adds that double-checking what you already have is a good idea, and suggests checking shopping lists provided by schools. The lists are made available by most Canadian schools, she explains, adding that “course-appropriate material” can include calculators and textbooks.
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Budget tips for parents
Parents should involve children in the budget process during back-to-school to teach them about the process, Scorgie says. But she adds it’s important they stay in charge.
“You can’t fork the process over to the kids,” she said. “Invite them to be a part of it.”
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That means setting a rough budget, then allowing children to have some input on where they want to spend the money.
Waverman says striking a balance between what children want and need is important.
“You have you decide what they need, and add a couple things that they love.”
In order to curb the amount of money spent, Scorgie advises parents themselves cut down on things that may be convenient but are unnecessary — she points to pre-made lunch packs as an example.
WATCH: How to make back-to-school shopping a learning experience for kids
She also urges parents to shop online, which means it’ll likely be faster, hassle-free and it’ll be easier compare products and prices.
One of the most important budget tips for parents: “Follow the shopping list.”
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