With today’s children growing up in a generation where there are more complex financial product
available than ever before, it’s perhaps not surprising that we’re commonly warned that
levels of financial literacy are slipping. While the young struggle to get a grasp
of even basic financial matters, their parents are being bombarded by economic
factors such as stagnant wages, rising inflation and high levels of household debt that
are causing many to struggle financially.
One of the biggest financial headaches of the year for many parents is the cost of back-to-school
essentials such as school uniform, PE equipment, music equipment, stationery, books and much more.
However, rather than simply pulling out your wallet to pay for those items, this could be
an excellent opportunity to teach your child a financial lesson and reduce the cost of going back to school.
1. Make a list – One of the first steps in making any back-to-school budget is to think about what
your child will need for school and work with them to create an itemised list. Asking them to help
you make that list and sticking to your guns about what you intend to spend will teach them
that sacrifices need to be made. If they do want additional items then they should contribute
2. Needs vs. Wants – This is the perfect opportunity to introduce your child to the difference between
what they need and items they want. Notebooks, pens and a uniform are certainly needs, but brand
name school shoes or stylish backpacks are wants. Again, if they want a more expensive alternative
then their pocket money can be used to bridge the gap.
3. Comparing prices – Back-to-school shopping is an excellent way to teach your child the value of price
comparisons. You should check the prices at the major office supply stores, supermarkets and online
to show them that research is the only way to make sure you don’t pay over the odds. You can also
use this opportunity to teach them about quality and how this can differ with price.
4. Let your child handle the money – When it comes to making the purchase, let your child handle the
money at the checkout or explain why you’re paying on card. This will also allow you to teach them
the importance of keeping the receipt and asking about the returns policy before you buy.
5. The importance of timing – One important lesson for children to learn is the impact of seasonality on
price and how this can lead to significant changes throughout the year. The price of these items will
always be higher in the weeks and days leading up to the start of the school term. However, shopping
around for back-to-school items earlier in the year when the demand is less will help you secure the
6. Learn about the four pillars – There are plenty of free online resources that help teach financial
literacy and we particularly recommend Wonga’s ‘four pillars’ post to get quickly grab the
fundamentals of debt, saving, budgeting and investing.
These are just a few of the lessons you can teach your children when buying those back-to-school essentials.
Do you have some tips of your own to help reduce the cost of the back-to-school items? Please share yours
with our readers in the comments section below.