By: Thomas J. Shara
It’s back-to-school time, 42 percent of consumers are expected to increase spending on apparel and school supplies, according to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs1
. Whether you fall into this group, or plan to stick to last year’s budget, back-to-school shopping is a perfect time to teach children to save.
Learning how to save is one of the most valuable lessons we can impart to our children. Children who learn how to manage their money early can become lifelong savers and hopefully financially responsible adults. Spending and saving wisely also teaches discipline and patience. Having good financial habits will be especially helpful as the next generation faces the challenges of planning for retirement amid the uncertainty of social security and increasing life expectancies.
At Lakeland Bank, we believe in this concept so strongly that we spend time each spring in the classroom as part of the Teach Children to Save
program. We’ve had great experiences over the years as we’ve watched children learn the value of a dollar.
Our recent visit to Ms. DeHart’s fourth grade class at the John Hill School in Boonton, N.J., was no exception. These students were already savvy consumers who could readily identify savings goals. On their wish list were: iPods, iPads, an expensive pair of sneakers, a cell phone and a trip to an amusement park.
We used their responses to lead a lesson on distinguishing between needs and wants.
“A lot of kids get birthday money and the first thing they want to do is spend it,” said Paula DeHart. “If we can teach them that they can spend a little and save a little, they can take that lesson into adulthood.”
It’s a much-needed lesson for America’s kids. According to Charles Schwab's 2008 Parents and Money report2
, 93 percent of American parents with teenagers reported worrying that their children might make financial missteps such as overspending or living beyond their means. Yet, according to that same report, just 34 percent of parents have taught their teen how to balance a checkbook, and even fewer have explained how credit card interest and fees work.
“Teenagers that reported learning about managing savings and checking accounts were more likely to report having opened both types of accounts, and they were more likely to save, have a budget and have money to make purchases,” according to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Charles Schwab Foundation
The good news is that you can start reinforcing good financial habits today! Back-to-school shopping is the perfect real life scenario for a lesson with your youngsters and teenagers.
Back-to-School Shopping Tips to Teach Children to Save
- With your child, create a shopping list for back-to-school items that are needed. Make a separate list for “wants” if the budget will allow.
- Research costs of these items online and in advertising circulars to develop a budget. If desired, let your child know that he or she can use any money left over in the budget for “wants.”
- Cut out coupons and make note of advertising specials at various stores.
- Plan your shopping trips. Remember, you don’t need to tackle everything in one trip. Stick to the list, and focus on needs only. Compare your purchases to your budget.
Year-Round Opportunities to Save
- Consider nontraditional places to shop, such as consignment shops for clothes or eBay for supplies. Consider shopping after school starts to take advantage of the end of season sales.
- Create a savings plan and make it fun! Set up a chore chart and give an allowance for completing tasks. Many kids like the three-jar method as a simple budget plan—one for spending, one for saving and one for charitable donations.
- Help your child open a savings account. Lakeland Bank offers a Young Savers Account that can be opened with as little as $1 and will match the first deposit up to $10.
- Once your child has a savings account, try to make deposits regularly. Let your child fill out the deposit slip and review their balance so that they see how their savings are growing!
- Consider matching what your child decides to save to further encourage savings.
For more tips and ideas about saving and further information for parents and teachers, visit the American Bankers Association website at www.aba.com