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Back-to-school budgeting made simple with advice from WVU Extension Service experts

Morgantown, W.Va.— Back-to-school time can be exciting for parents and students alike. With so many things to prepare for, shopping for school items might seem overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be, according to West Virginia University Extension Service experts.

David Roberts, WVU Extension agent for Lincoln and Boone counties, says it all starts with planning ahead.

“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.”

Start with a list.

“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 recycling gently used folders, backpacks and other items from older siblings or gathering pens, pencils and paper from the home office space.

Buy only the essentials now.

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.”

Involve your child.

WVU Extension specialists also encourage families to use back-to-school shopping as a way to teach financial literacy, budgeting skills and the difference between wants and needs. 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.”

Do research on discounts and coupons.

Roberts encourages families to search online for coupons, sales and discounts at different stores prior to starting their back-to-school shopping.

“Coupons and student discounts are available on everything from crayons to computers,” said Roberts. “If you’re searching hard enough, you should rarely be paying full price for most items.”

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

WVU Extension Service specialists have additional financial tips and resources available at

The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.

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CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service Writer/Editor, 304.293.8701,

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