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9 parenting hacks for back-to-school prep

A father sits at the kitchen table with his young son, as they paint a globe together for a school project. School books and paint surround them.
July 21, 2020

By Claire Hegstrom

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

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

1.Use school supply shopping as a lesson in budgeting

Learning how quickly costs add up when buying a few notebooks and folders can be very eye-opening to your kiddos. Involving them in the buying process is a great way to teach kids about money. It can also introduce them to 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 quality of the backpack as you both 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 out their list, shopping with them will ensure they stay on track. Also, they can ask you for any advice along the way. You can help your teen continue their smart money journey by opening a teen checking account to keep their allowance, gas and lunch money safe. Starting good financial habits early on can be a powerful way to teach your young adult about responsibility, while you’re still closely monitoring their spending.

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

On average, parents spend $120 per child when buying standard back-to-school supplies. That’s a lot of cash to drop on paper and pens! Here’s a trick to save you a pretty penny: Jot down a list of items you already have that can be used through the first two weeks of school. 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.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 for certain school supplies, higher quality products will save you more money in the long run. 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.

4.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 September. Challenge your kids to find a good book about something that interests them and have them devote 30 minutes a day to reading before school starts. Check your school’s website for a suggested summer reading list, or dive into this list curated by the American Library Association full of book recommendations for every grade level!

5.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 a day 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, away from distractions and noise where homework and reading can be done. Having all the supplies they will need available at their homework station can also cut down on distractions created while searching for the tools they need to do their work.

6.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 off strong. Begin by limiting screen time to an hour before bed so that it’s easier to fall asleep.

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

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

Kids who are 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 most passionate about right now. It could be learning a new valuable skill like swimming lessons, or even giving back to the community by participating in the city band! 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 the variety of programs they are offering.

8.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, start with taking the kids to get one new back-to-school outfit each. They’ll have something snazzy to wear on the first day so that they can walk into class with confidence, 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 awesome grades or other accomplishments throughout the year.

9.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, but for numerous families across America, back-to-school shopping is a huge financial burden that 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 to see if your district participates in programs such as eScrip or OneCause, which donates a percentage of your everyday purchases toward your school!

 

Looking for more ways to help you little ones grow into money-smart adults? Check out these blogs to get started:

https://www.alliantcreditunion.org/money-mentor/what-you-need-to-know-to-open-a-bank-account-for-a-child

https://www.alliantcreditunion.org/money-mentor/how-to-teach-kids-and-teens-about-debt

https://www.alliantcreditunion.org/money-mentor/teaching-kids-to-save-money


Claire Hegstrom is an advocate of the credit union movement through and through. Passionate about financial education, she approaches money conversations from a candid and inclusive space focused on growth and awareness. As our credit union founding father, Ed Filene, once said, “Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better.” Claire hopes reading Money Mentor will help transform your life from the best to even better.

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