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Back-to-School Budgeting

There are lots of expected things to worry about when it comes to finances, but back-to-school budgeting is often one that blindsides families, according to WVU Extension Service experts.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way as long as you plan ahead, according to David Roberts, WVU Extension agent for Lincoln and Boone counties.

“Gone are the days when all a student needed were a couple of notebooks and number two pencils,” said Roberts. “Fortunately, families can still take simple, yet effective steps to cut costs and be prepared for the school year.”

One of the first steps is to recycle items already in the household or reuse items offered from friends and family.

“Most schools offer a ‘school supply shopping list’ for items students are expected to arrive with on the first day—but what those lists don’t say is that every item must be brand new,” said Roberts. “Assessing what you already have can help prevent getting caught up in the back-to-school rush and making expensive last-minute purchases.”

Roberts recommends families look at the suggested school supply shopping list and assess the supplies they already have on hand. Sometimes this means reusing folders, backpacks and other items from older siblings or gathering pens, pencils and paper from the home office space.

Roberts also reminds parents not to stress about the things that can be purchased later on in the school year, even if that means waiting a little while for your child’s favorite brand of clothing to go on sale.

“It may be difficult to avoid that new outfit for the first day of school, but consider holding off for a few weeks before making purchases,” said Roberts. “For the most ‘bang for your buck’ consider spreading out clothing purchases throughout the year.”

WVU Extension specialists also encourage families to use back-to-school shopping as a way to teach financial literacy and budgeting skills. Inform your children of the total budget and allow them to make final purchasing decisions.

“It’s an eye-opening and empowering lesson for children when they are able to compare prices of items themselves and understand that purchasing one expensive item may mean making sacrifices in another area of the to-buy list,” said Roberts. “If nothing else, it teaches the value of money and the trade-offs associated with a well-balanced budget.”


If you have more questions about back-to-school budgeting, contact Roberts at 
David.Roberts@mail.wvu.edu or 304-824-7911.