Sunday, April 22 , 2018, 9:11 am | Fair 61º


Bill Cirone: Be Smart About Back-to-School Shopping

Strategic purchases save money and model for kids how to use wise budget strategies throughout the year.

With a new school year under way, costs for new clothes and supplies can add up quickly. According to a National Retail Federation survey, the average family intends to spend about $527 this year for back-to-school supplies.

Strategic purchases can save money and provide an opportunity to model for children how to use wise budget strategies throughout the year.

Bill Cirone
First, it’s a good idea to involve children in making a list of what they already have and what they need. Help them prioritize the list in order of the items most needed, then draw up a budget.

Next, read through newspaper ads with your children and seek the best sales. You can also check online for deals, then show children how to do comparison shopping for the best prices.

Because of the speed at which children grow, it’s best to resist buying fad clothing, which can be expensive. Show children that they can buy more items if they buy fewer expensive pieces.

It’s also important to make sure the clothes fall within the school’s dress code. Basic, durable and adjustable clothing can stretch your dollars significantly. 

Use every opportunity to impart “object lessons.” Children may want colorful notebooks with logos or their favorite heroes, but the plain notebooks may have more paper and be less expensive. While shopping with your children, compare prices, count the number of items and add up the bill. This will acquaint them with using math in their daily lives.

Although students sometimes prefer to use messenger bags to carry their books, be aware that the weight of the bag will fall on one shoulder and can lead to neck and back pain. Consider a two-strapped backpack that distributes the weight more evenly over the body. As with other items, remember that fad logos can add to the price of the bag.

Of course, using slightly worn hand-me-downs can save a lot of money. Garage or yard sales are great sources for a vintage lunchbox or a nearly new calculator.

For some items, such as shoes, it’s important to pay the difference for good quality. For example, children love to wear inexpensive flip-flops, but spending more for your children’s shoes most likely will provide safety and allow for proper foot development. Don’t look to the future for growing room. Buy shoes that are comfortable now. It’s best to choose shoes with a stiff heel and flexible toe and are rigid in the middle for support.

If your children need a computer, consider shopping at an outlet store for a refurbished model, which can save 50 percent to 60 percent from the retail price. If you’re considering other high-tech tools, know your school’s rules first. Some cell phones, iPods and MP3 players are banned from schools.

If your children insist on buying more expensive items, consider having them put part of their allowance or paycheck toward the purchase, or have them eliminate a lower priority item from their list. This will teach them the value of budgeting. It also could cause children to lose interest in the item and forget how important it once seemed.

If you don’t need to buy supplies now, it’s best to wait. School supplies are often placed on clearance by mid-September. 

Above all, stay within your budget. Using a credit card is good only if you know how you will pay it off. Otherwise, the interest rates and fees may cancel out any savings you made from finding sales and bargains.

Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >