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Back-to-school shopping a teachable moment

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WASHINGTON (8/9/10)--Back-to-school shopping is an annual event perfect for talking to your kids about budgeting and saving money, and the difference between needs and wants (Americans for Consumer Education and Competition Aug. 2). If you view shopping as a headache, here’s an opportunity to put some responsibility on the student and lessen your role as the baddie saying, “No, no and no.” If you view shopping as fun and exciting, it's your chance to show your student how to shop responsibly. You can use back-to-school shopping to lay the foundation for sound money management habits these ways:
* Set a realistic back-to-school budget with each child before you shop--use the ads in the Sunday paper as a guideline. * Take a copy of your budget when shopping and let your child enter in all of the actual expenses--paper works fine for young ones; teens might prefer to enter expenses in a cell phone. * Encourage kids to consider ways to cut costs through sales and coupons, and reward them for coming in under budget. Consider splitting the difference with them. * Teach your children to comparison shop and to avoid impulse buying. If it’s not on the list, don’t get it.
The first year is the toughest, so don’t give up if it doesn’t go smoothly. Consider any “discussions” as a success that you’ve struck a nerve. You can build on this experience to begin turning over more purchasing decisions to your student as he or she matures, using entertainment and clothing budgets as an example. Just because school doesn’t start for a couple of weeks doesn’t mean your children couldn’t do with some real-school learning right now. For more teachable moment ideas, see the Home & Family Finance Resource Center article “Holiday spending gives parents a chance to teach.”