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Getting the Most Out of Your Kids’ Back-to-school Season

Yes, it’s that time again…back to school. A bittersweet time when you realize the lazy days of summer are nearing an end, your house will soon be a lot emptier (but tidier) and the requirements of the approaching school year will leave a noticeable dent in your wallet.

If the thought of back-to-school shopping leaves you feeling stressed, you’re not alone. According to a recent poll by, the expenses and hectic schedule that come with the Back-to-school season are the two biggest stressors for parents.

On average, parents plan to spend $183, up from $155 in 2014, the last time the study was conducted. As many as 18% plan to spend more than $300. Parents overwhelmingly include their kids: 67% take their kids with them when shopping, 66% let the kids pick out products and 58% let them make the shopping list. Nearly half (47%) also make their kids aware of the budget.

Including your kids in the back-to-school shopping process makes good financial sense and it’s never too early – or too late – to start. Talking about money is the first step to improving financial capability and enabling young Canadians to undertake their financial decisions and actions with confidence and competence, the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) reminds.


The CFEE recently surveyed more than 6,000 youth from across Canada asking them what they wanted to learn about money and how they wanted to learn – and from whom. Believe it or not, kids cited parents as their number one choice for money management teacher!  School and knowledgeable guests at school rounded out their remaining top preferred sources of financial information and education.

Since kids want guidance with money management, here are a few tips to give you a jump start. Research shows there are some common concerns and challenges amongst kids, so these might be good areas to touch on as you teach your kids about finances:

Top four challenges kids face:

  1. Earning money
  2. Saving money
  3. Wanting things they can’t afford
  4. Buying things they don’t really need

Topics kids want to learn from you:

  • Making good spending decisions
  • Ways and means to save money
  • Budgeting money

Including your kids in back-to-school shopping is a great way to help your kids address all of these issues. Here are some ways you can make the learning experience even more valuable:

Budgeting: Most people cringe at the word ‘budget’ but a budget lifestyle helps you curb impulsive spending, which can lead to high debt. In this case, calculate how much you can comfortably allocate to back-to-school shopping and talk to your kids about how much you have to spend.

Find out what clothing and footwear still fits and take inventory of school supplies that may have been tossed in a closet on the last day of school and forgotten about. Perhaps they don’t need another box of pencil crayons after all. That’s one less expense and is environmentally friendly – a message that should resound with today’s students. Help them create a list of what they need that includes a price column.

Online and comparison shoppingShow your child how to look up prices online and find sales – an exercise that will give them a better idea of how much things cost and the value of comparison shopping as they create their list. Be creative in your shopping habits and consider thrift shops, discount outlets and hand-me-downs, especially for big-ticket items like coats and sports equipment. It’s also environmentally friendly.

Needs versus wants: Keep your child’s list of needs separate from their wants. Why? Because you can reduce your wants, if necessary, but not your needs. Seeing your wants exceed your budget will flag you to stop spending in those areas.

What should you do if your child insists on a brand when you know a no-name version of an item will suffice? Challenge them to use their own money from their allowance, job or gifts to pay the difference. Perhaps they can take on additional chores to earn extra money or sell forgotten video games. This is an opportune time to talk to your kids about value and priorities. After all, just because an item is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best and buying an expensive item can limit your ability to buy something else.

Purchase with cash: If you’re accustomed to buying with plastic, this may seem inconvenient but it will help your child better understand money and you’ll also be less likely to overspend. If you purchase with credit and can’t pay off your balance every month, each item you buy will be more expensive because of interest charges.

Put the money in a back-to-school envelope (which kids may want to decorate). Be sure to keep receipts in case you decide to return an item, perhaps because you found it at a better price somewhere else or because your child found something they wanted more.

The time and effort you spend in your kids learning process is an investment in them and their future.  Helping our kids learn healthy money management now will help them to better prepare for their future, security and their ability to pursue their dreams! If you would like more ideas on healthy financial management strategies you can take a look at my book, Money Is Not The Root of All Evil: Debt Is! for more inspiration.

I hope you and your family enjoy the remainder of the summer and experience a fun Back-to-school season.

Happy shopping!


Kelly Melanson, CPA, CMA the author of Money Is Not The Root of All Evil: Debt Is! and founder/owner of Kelly Melanson Professional Corporation. She and her team specialize in helping people reach their dreams via strategic financial management practices. For almost 25 years, Kelly Melanson, Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CMA) has been helping people and businesses in Whitby, Oshawa, Ajax, Durham Region and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to reach and surpass their financial goals.

 If you would like to speak to Kelly regarding your retirement or tax planning, tax returns, bookkeeping or any of your other accounting or financial planning needs, please contact the office anytime – we’d love to chat with you.

Kelly Melanson Professional Corporation – Chartered Professional Accountant, CPA

11 Stanley Ct, #13 Whitby, ON L1N 8P9 – Local: (905) 666-5071 Toll-free: 1-800-942-5558 – Email:  Web:

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