Back to School -- for You and the Kids (July 2013)

As we head toward mid-August, school is in the air. Some elementary and high schools have already started while the rest will be very soon. Even college students are looking at those mini-fridges and other things so vital to college life. Retailers are fighting hard for your dollars by offering pencils and notebooks for a penny and computers for less than $300. Smart shoppers can save money on items they need, while others may spend money they don’t have on those same products.

Employees paid bi-weekly have a bit of a reprieve as they receive three paychecks in August, but I still encourage you to be careful and spend wisely. This extra income can help you get stocked up for school, but also needs to be saved for those things not in our regular budget such as car taxes and holiday gifts. Making the distinction between a want and a need is one of the most critical steps in being wise with your money. Sit down beforehand and make a list of needed items and stick to it.

This is also an excellent opportunity to start giving teenagers some financial responsibility. As your children reach high school, rather than taking them shopping and just paying for what they want, give them the amount you plan to spend on clothes and other school supplies. They can get what they want (within reasonable limits), but when the money is gone, it’s gone. This will help them understand the value of money before leaving home and having to do it on their own. Having to wear last year’s clothes because they spent $100 on shoes can go a long way towards making a teenager understand financial decisions.

Finally, as your kids head back to school, think about heading back yourself. Regular employees (0.75 or greater full-time equivalent) can take 6 credit hours per semester at any state college or university at no cost. You do not have to be working toward a degree and the class does not have to be related to work. Or, if you have worked at the University of Kentucky for more than a year, your child can get a discount on tuition. For details on both programs, go tohttp://www.uky.edu/HR/benefits/eep_overview.html.

Take time to breathe and enjoy the last bits of summer between shopping trips. Having some fun in the midst of the chaos will help you relax and provide memories for those times in the future when you no longer have the back-to-school shopping to do. At least that is what empty-nesters standing at the side chuckling at our craziness say.