10 parenting hacks for back to school

August 15, 2023 | Alliant Credit Union

The start of the school year is an exciting opportunity to set new habits for you and your kids. The beginning of a new schedule comes with new goals, fresh plans to make the year seamless and ideas to keep your little ones better organized.

The final weeks of summer are a great time to develop and revamp your routine to get back into the learning mindset. Check out these hacks savvy parents are using to prepare for going back to school.

1. Use school supply shopping as a lesson in budgeting

Shopping for school supplies is a fun and potentially costly experience. Instead of simply swiping your credit card and going on with your day, you can involve your child in the purchasing process to start teaching your kids about money. Learning how quickly costs add up when buying a few notebooks and folders can be eye-opening. It can also introduce the concept of value, comparisons and sticking to a budget.

For your youngest ones, let them pick out their backpack and pencil case while you decide on the rest of the supplies. Teach them about the backpack's quality as you compare prices with other frontrunners.

As they get older, expand their responsibility by giving them a set amount of money to purchase all the needed supplies. Although they will be completely in charge of budgeting their list, shopping with them will ensure they stay on track. Also, they can ask you for advice along the way.

2. Shop for supplies they need now, and wait to buy the rest later

School supplies are not cheap, and with rising prices due to inflation, parents may see an uptick in how much they will spend on back-to-school supplies this year. To combat this price increase, here's a tip to help you save: Jot down a list of items from last year your child could reuse at the start of the school year. By using pens, pencils, and old notebooks from the previous year, you can wait until the school supply sale hits two weeks after classes have begun. Then, stock up on everything you need to round out your supply shopping at a discount!

3. Set them up with a kids saving account or teen checking account

It is never too early or late to teach your child financial literacy. One of the best ways to start is by opening your child a savings account. With this account, you can begin teaching your child how to monitor their accounts, save money from allowances or birthday checks and manage their money. By learning these lessons early, your child will have a better foundation for saving and spending money as they grow up.

You can help your teen continue their smart money journey by opening a teen checking account to keep their allowance, paychecks, gas and lunch money safe. This helps your teen have control over their own money and start to understand how to create budgets or save for larger purchases, such as a car, on their own. Starting good financial habits early on can be a powerful way to teach your young adult about responsibility while still monitoring their spending.

4. Discover where quality truly counts

Do you really need the name-brand crayons, or is it better to shop frugally with off-brand options? Some teachers suggest that higher quality products will save you more money in the long run for certain school supplies. When it comes to things like crayons, markers and even pencils, some teachers believe that name brands seem to last longer, so you'll have to purchase them less often. For more costly items like graphing calculators, check to see if they're available at your local or school library.

5. Get your kids' brains back in learning mode

For most kiddos, summer is a time to close the books and get outside to explore. But for many children, it can be hard to get back into the swing of reading by diving straight into homework materials come back-to-school time. Challenge your kids to find a good book about something that interests them and have them devote 30 minutes daily to reading before school starts. Check your school's website for a suggested summer reading list, or dive into the list curated by the American Library Association full of book recommendations for every grade level!

6. Create the perfect space for doing homework

Much like you enjoy a tidy desk and a quiet office space to work, your child can benefit from the same. High school students receive about 3.5 hours of homework daily from their teachers. And after a full day of learning, it can be hard to hunker down on homework.

Create an area with adequate lighting and table space where your child can complete homework and reading assignments without distractions and noise. Having all the supplies they will need available at their homework station can also reduce distractions created while searching for the tools they need to do their work.

7. Get everyone's sleep schedule back on track

Nothing is quite as jolting as a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call after a summer of snoozing—sans alarms. Establishing and implementing your family's school sleep schedule two weeks before school can be a great way to start the year strong. Begin by cutting off screen time an hour before bed so that it's easier to fall asleep.

Going to bed at a decent time is only half the battle. Set an alarm to get used to waking up bright and early. By the time school starts, your family routine will be second nature.

8. Find after-school activities your little ones are passionate about

Kids involved in after-school activities often get better grades and have deeper connections with friends. Sit down and talk to your kids about what they're passionate about right now. It could be learning a new valuable skill like swimming, giving back to the community or participating in music! You can search your local parent groups on social media for activities that may interest your children or visit your recreation center to check out their various programs.

9. Buy one back-to-school outfit

Back-to-school clothes shopping can be rough on any budget as purchases start piling up for the new school year. To space out these costly shopping trips, take the kids to get one new back-to-school outfit each. They'll have something snazzy to wear on the first day so they can confidently walk into class, and you'll feel better by not overspending.

Later, when the kids decide what their style for the year will be, you can slowly buy additional pieces for their wardrobe. Additional outfits can be a great way to reward excellent grades or other accomplishments throughout the year.

10. Teach kids about the importance of giving—through shopping

Shopping for new backpacks and outfits is often many children's favorite part of the year. Still, for numerous families across America, back-to-school shopping is a huge financial burden many can't afford. If teaching your children about giving is a priority for you, why not fill a backpack with school supplies and donate it to your local shelter with your kiddo?

Another opportunity to give may be available through your school. Check if your district participates in programs that donate a percentage of your everyday purchases toward your school.

Looking for more ways to help you little ones grow into money-savvy adults?

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