By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO
NEW YORK — Shopping for back-to-school items for your elementary school children, but afraid of a fight in the jeans aisle?
Parents who hope to keep a lid on spending can soften the edge by planning the back-to-school budget with kids, shopping together and teaching them how to separate needs from wants — and how to tell what’s a good deal.
“You need to involve them in the process so they understand the value of money,” says Lori Mackey, president of Prosperity4Kids Inc. in Agoura Hills, Calif., which offers material to teach kids about finance. “These are life lessons that children will need.”
Here are five personal finance lessons that back-to-school shopping can teach:
1. Spend within your budget
Parents should start by working with kids to set a limit on how much to spend on clothing and supplies. Jacob Gold, a certified financial planner in Scottsdale, Ariz., recommends using a debit card or cash so kids see how quickly the money disappears.
“They have to learn to live within the certain threshold,” said Gold.
2. Know what you have
Go through your child’s closet to find out what fits and what doesn’t — and what needs to be repaired or handed down. Maybe that jacket just needs to be patched or the shoes just need resoling. Consider recycling last year’s backpack if it’s still in good shape.
3. Separate wants from needs
Children may want five pairs of super-skinny jeans in different colors, but parents should get children to ask themselves each time they want to buy something: Do I really need that? Start by coming up with a list — before heading to the mall — of what’s necessary in the way of school supplies, shoes and clothes. Phil Heckman, director of youth services at the Credit Union National Association, suggests letting children buy something extra with money left over after they buy those necessities.
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