Back to School: 4 Tips to Survive the Most Expensive Shopping Season Debt Free

Raising children is expensive. Between food, clothing, increased household costs and childcare costs, a family in Canada can easily spend more than $10,000 a year on just one child. And that’s before factoring in increased transportation costs, health care, personal care, recreational activities and the expense that hits your bank account hard every August—back-to-school shopping and fees.

More expensive than the holidays

An Angus Reid poll conducted in 2017 found that Canadians expected to spend $883 per family on back-to-school supplies and fashion that year, or $325 more than they spent on holiday gifts the previous year.

Over half of the parents surveyed said that shopping in preparation for the first day of school put a strain on household finances, with nearly 40 per cent reporting that it took months for them to pay off the bill. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to avoid going into debt for your kids’ school supplies and activities.

Here are our top four tips for money-savvy back-to-school shopping—no scientific calculator needed.

1 – Make a realistic budget and stick to it

As everyone with school-age children knows, expenses can add up quickly when you’re not paying attention. The same Angus Reid poll found that more than one-third of parents didn’t realize how much they were spending until they looked at their credit card statement.

If you haven’t budgeted for back-to-school costs in the past, you need to start now. Sit down with your children and go through the list of school supplies and fees provided by their school ahead of the first day of class. Decide what’s a must-have and what’s optional, and add up all of the non-negotiable expenses.

Creating a back-to-school budget that makes sense for your household income will make you less likely to succumb to impulse shopping and overspending when you hit the malls and online shopping sites. You’ll also be giving your kids a real-life lesson in responsible spending.

Remember that school supplies are not the only expenses you will need to cover. In Alberta, the recently introduced Act to Reduce School Fees saves families money on certain transportation and school fees (including fees for textbooks, photocopying and printing), but school boards and schools can still charge fees for miscellaneous items like the following: