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Plan ahead to manage back-to-school costs

Thursday, July 20, 2017

While Oklahoma students enjoy the last few weeks of summer, another school year is fast approaching, and that means the annual back-to-school shopping frenzy is on the very near horizon.

The good news for parents and caregivers is there is no need to bust the budget or lose a grip on that one last nerve.

“Doing some advanced planning will add an important element of organization to your shopping. It’ll also 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 budget for the amount the family wants to devote to school-related purchases. Factor in costs such as instrument rental, school pictures and sports participation.

Also, incorporate possible expenses associated with graduating seniors and the college application process, as well as transporting the children to school each day.

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

“Today’s technology makes it easy for consumers to find exactly what they want and in a price range that works for them,” Clampet said. “Just as important, negotiating the budget in advance gives families a chance to resolve any disagreements before getting to the store, where parents and caregivers may feel pressured to give into demands while in public.”

If the children change their minds or want to add to the shopping list once they get to the store, parents should help them make decisions that will allow them to stay within the established and agreed upon budget.

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

However, families should pay attention to sales as well as 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. 4-6.

Even with a break on sales tax and strict adherence to a budget, some may struggle to cover back-to-school costs. For assistance in those cases, check 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 building anticipated school expenses into the overall household budget as a wallet-friendly strategy that also can cut down on parents’ stress level.

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

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