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Posted August 10, 2021

It’s back to school time and that means it’s time to get your school supplies ready! This is also a great opportunity to teach your kids about budgeting and the importance of buying what you need, not what you want. This may not work for kids of all ages, but if they struggle with math or counting money, you can step in and use that as a teachable moment.

Download a back to school shopping PDF worksheetUse this Back to School Shopping Budget Worksheet with your children to help them prepare their list, compare prices, and review their spending.


Develop the rules.
  • Determine the child’s budget (make a reasonable estimate based on how much you have spent in the past).
  • What do they need to purchase first? Will they have free reign on their purchases?
  • Will you need to approve their purchases?
Go over the budget with the child.
  • You’ll want to share the budget with them. Make sure they understand that they cannot spend more than what is given to them.
  • Give them the budget in cash so they see the money go down as they spend it.
Grab your lists.
  • Sit down with your child and go over all the required school supplies.
  • What items do they have? Take some time to go through their supplies from previous years. Can anything be reused? Explain that by reusing items, they can use the leftover money on other items.
  • What do they still need to buy?
  • What non-required items do they want to get? For example, do they need a new backpack or new clothes?
Develop their shopping list.
  • Have them write down what they need to buy. Use this as an opportunity to explain that following a list will help them stay on budget. Maybe discuss that if it’s not on the list, they need to come up with a good reason to purchase it.
  • Go through newspaper ads/online ads and comparison shop. Check for ads at the stores you shop at to find the best prices.
  • Talk with them about the benefit of comparison shopping.
  • Encourage them to write down the best prices and the store by the item on their list. For example, if store one has notebooks for $.25, they write the price and the name down on the list next to notebooks.
Once they’ve looked at prices and ads, have them organize their list.
  • Where do they need to go? Can they get multiple items at one store?
  • If they need to go to multiple stores, does the savings justify driving around? Talk about gas prices.
Get ready to shop.
  • Tell them that you will be there to help them, but they will be making their own decisions. You can step in as needed and help guide them, but you want them to learn from their decisions – good and bad. Of course, if you know they are making a bad decision, talk with them about it in the moment. Ask them to explain their purchase.
  • Take advantage of tax-free weekend (August 9-11). This can help them get the most out of their budget.
  • At the store, let the child lead the way the entire time.
  • Remind them to follow their list. Have them cross off the items as they purchase them.
  • Make sure they’re taking into account the prices of items and not spending over their budget.
  • If they find something they want to buy that’s not on the list, talk with them about needs and wants. Remind them that they have a limited amount of money to spend. What’s more important for them to buy?
  • Before checking out, walk through their decisions with them. Ask them to explain their purchases.
  • Have them pay with cash so they can get used to counting out the money.
  • After all their stuff is bought, review their purchases with them.
  • Ask them some questions about what they’ve learned. What was the hardest part? What was the most expensive?
  • If they come out under budget, encourage them to put that money in savings or use for a treat.