School Shopping and Kids’ Financial Education

Jul 18, 2019 | Financial Literacy

Mom and daughter school shopping together

The long summer vacation is almost over, and those busy back-to-school schedules are looming large on the calendar. There’s school shopping to accomplish between now and the first day of the new school year. Here are some quick pointers from SageVest Kids on how you can turn school shopping into teachable moments in support of your kids’ financial education.

Needs and Wants

Before going school shopping, make sure your kids understand needs (essential items) versus wants (items that are simply nice to have). Start the discussion by reviewing school supplies you already have on hand and any teacher-approved supply lists for the new school year.


Introduce the concept of charitable giving during back-to-school preparations. Get your kids to sort out gently worn clothes that no longer fit or unwanted school supplies, then research and donate the items to a charity that helps other kids get a good head start on the school year.

Peer Pressure for Teens and Tweens

Peer pressure starts as early as age 8 and can become particularly evident as you shop together for back-to-school items. Your kids may be feeling pressured to conform, especially when it comes to clothing and tech. Listen to their concerns, discuss options rationally, and compromise where possible. If you decide to say ‘No’, explain why, relating your decision to important factors like your kid’s self-worth and family values. For older kids still intent on buying branded goods, have them pay any price differential relative to generic brands.


Once you’ve agreed upon which school supplies are needed, help your kids create a simple budget. This should include how much money’s available overall, needs versus wants, and who’s paying for each item. Teach your kids to prioritize needs first, track costs, and adjust spending as you go in order to stay within budget.

Purchasing Responsibilities

As your kids mature, their allowance should increase to accommodate greater purchasing responsibilities. If this extends to school shopping, you can:

  • Provide a one-off amount from which your kids will purchase back-to-school supplies. This is a sensible option for tweens and early teens who may still be refining their budgeting techniques.
  • Increase older teens’ allowance throughout the year, incorporating back-to-school shopping into ongoing purchase obligations. This approach requires more developed budgeting skills.
  • If your kids do make a budgeting or spending mistake, encourage extra chores to earn additional cash, or consider advancing a short-term loan to teach them about borrowing.

Wise Spending

Provide guidance, oversight, and encouragement to help your kids make sensible spending decisions not only during school shopping but also for other purchases in the future:

  • Discuss purchase decisions together, sharing questions and input.
  • Make use of coupons and special offers to save more money.
  • Price comparison apps can help check prices in real time, often by simply scanning a product’s barcode with a smart phone. The apps then search online databases to show similar products and prices to help you and your kids achieve the best deals.
  • Consider buying second-hand for some items at a consignment store or thrift shop.
  • Organize a swap-meet with other kids and parents.
  • Be aware of refund and return policies, especially for sale and clearance items, and save all receipts, especially when shopping online.

Tax Free Shopping 2019

Many states offer tax free shopping days to help families fund back-to-school necessities. Take advantage of your state’s tax free shopping to save on clothing, school supplies, and use the opportunity to discuss taxes with your kids as part of their financial education. Be sure to calculate your tax savings so that your kids gain an appreciation for tax impacts.

  • Virginia tax free shopping occurs on the weekend of August 2-4, 2019.
  • Maryland tax free shopping occurs during the second week of August, 2019.
  • DC tax free shopping was repealed in 2010, but DC residents can take advantage of tax free back-to-school shopping in VA and MD.

School shopping is a great time to focus on your kids’ financial education, allowing you to introduce and reinforce a variety of fundamental money skills in a real-world context. For more ideas on teaching kids about money, check out our Blog, Resources, and For Parents pages. For information on how SageVest Wealth Management can help your family’s finances flourish with personalized wealth management and financial planning services, please contact us.

Prepared by SageVest Wealth Management. Copyright .
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