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Oklahoma State University

Planning ahead can help families manage back-to-school costs and stress

Monday, July 23, 2018

Planning ahead will help parents and students manage the back-to-school season without anyone overspending or stressing out.

As the back-to-school season ramps up, doing some advanced planning will help parents and students get down to the business of heading back into the classroom without busting the budget or losing a grip on that one last nerve.

“Planning ahead will add an important element of organization to your shopping. It’ll help control your spending and your mood,” said Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension assistant state specialist, family resource management.

Begin by creating a family budget for school-related purchases. Factor in costs such as instrument rental, school pictures, sports participation and transportation to school each day.

Also, add in possible expenses for graduating seniors and the college application process.

Once the budget is established, family members should research their options based on the amount of funds available, then come to an agreement on all purchases.

“These days it’s easy to go online to find the items and products you want in a price range that works for you,” Clampet said. “Setting the budget in advance helps resolve disagreements before parents and students get to the store, where parents may feel pressured to give into demands from their student while in public.”

If changes or additions are made to the agreed-upon list of purchases after shopping begins, still try to stay within budget.

“Try not to shop if you’re feeling rushed or stressed,” Clampet said. “You also don’t want to wait too late or take someone who is already upset or in a bad mood because you could end up overspending or falling short of what you wanted to accomplish during your shopping excursion.”

Paying attention to sales, bargains and deals will help families stay within their back-to-school budget. So will taking advantage of the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s annual statewide Sales Tax holiday, which allows shoppers to purchase certain clothing and shoes free of state, city, county and local municipality sales tax.

This year, the sales tax holiday is set for Aug. 3-5.

Even with keeping a sharp eye out for bargains and sticking closely to a budget, some families may struggle to cover back-to-school costs. In these cases, check with the nearest county Extension office for a possible list of community organizations offering supplies for free or at a reduced price.

Finally, families may consider planning now for next school year by building anticipated expenses into the overall household budget.

“Tally all of this year’s expenses, divide that amount by 12 and begin reserving that much money each month to put toward next year’s costs,” Clampet said.

Story by Leilana McKindra

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