Just when you were getting used to the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer -- here come the compelling ads informing us it's time to unload our wallets at back-to-school sales to outfit every child with all the right stuff.
In addition to electronic gadgetry and environmentally acceptable must-haves, Retailers expect that you will buy an entire year's worth of clothes for each of your students, and with a credit card. But there is a better way. We can change the rules. We have alternatives.
Buck the system
There is no good reason to buy an entire school year's worth of clothes and school supplies at the beginning of a new school year. Kids don't need their whole school wardrobe the first week. New shoes and a special outfit for the first day help a child feel comfortable and confident. Buy a few things now, then supplement as the school year progresses, sales ensue and the kids go through their growth spurts.
Set a spending plan
Let your kids know how much cash you've allotted to get ready for school. Rather than saying, "That's all we can afford," say instead, "This is the amount we choose to spend now." Then stick to your guns. When parents say nothing about spending limits, kids assume their resources are unlimited.
The lifetime backpack
Cheap backpacks will wear out before the end of one year, while a name brand like JanSport or Eastpak will last for many years. Want to know why I am such a fan of the JanSport brand? Check out JanSport's lifetime no hassle warranty at JanSport.com. If a zipper breaks, seam pops open or that warranted backpack gives out for any reason, send it to the company. JanSport will fix or replace it. Period.
I have reports from readers whose kids took their original JanSport purchase in elementary school on to college. On several occasions it wasn't the same backpack (due to replacements along the way), but they made that single purchase. When JanSport says "Lifetime Warranty," they really mean it!
Let the kids help
Loosening the purse strings and allowing the kids access to the money for their school clothes and supplies might be scary, but it can be amazingly effective. Give your mature children the money you have allotted for their back-to-school shopping and let them handle it within the guidelines you've set and your family's values. Allow them latitude to make their own decisions without your intervention even if that means blowing the whole amount on a single pair of jeans. A foolish decision? Yes, and one a young lady may not have to learn again, especially when she sees her little sister bought several outfits with the same amount.
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.