By Steve Repak, CFP®
Not to scare you, but if you really want to know just how much your children are costing you each year, you can go to http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/calculatorintro.htm and depending on the number of children you have, their ages, and a few other questions, you can calculate just how far your little angels will set you back. Parents are reminded constantly of this, especially when the seasons change, the kids have outgrown last year’s wardrobe, and many family spending plans are thrown into the red. While you can’t avoid these expenses altogether, there are ways to control them so you don’t have to bust your budget when the leaves start changing. Keep reading for some tips to help you do just that:
1. Before setting out to buy new seasonal clothes, be sure of what you really need: Closets are also usually full of clothes from every season dating back for a few years. Now is a great time to go through your child’s wardrobe and discard any items that can no longer be worn. Have a good idea of what is left and let that guide you in your new purchases. Even better, make a list and stick to it!
2. When buying news clothes, don’t feel like you have to buy an entire wardrobe: your kids will keep growing through-out the year and the seasons will keep changing, so spread these purchases over the year to avoid buying a closet full of clothing that might be wearable for only a few months.
3. If you have more than one child, you may be able to pass down some items: I’m sure I am not the only parent that finds new and like-new items in my children’s closets. Consider passing these down to your younger children, or offer them to friends or family. Donate items that are left over, and keep records of these donations for tax time.
4. Take advantage of tax free weekends: this is a no-brainer. Plan your shopping around these weekends to take advantage of some significant savings.
5. Consider shopping at clothing consignment stores and sites like eBay®: you can find new and nearly new clothing in all of the hip clothing lines for a fraction of the price. Shop these first and hit the malls and department stores for the rest.
6. Save expensive items for Christmas and birthday gifts: it’s natural for your children to want the latest sneakers, or designer clothes. If these items fall outside of your budget, let your children have the option of putting these on their birthday or Christmas wish list. Your child will get something that they really want, and you’ll make Grandma’s job easier.
Keep in mind that it is ok to tell your child NO. Clothes are a need but the latest designer jeans or shoes aren’t. You have the final say in what you will purchase, but if you don’t want to tell your children NO, then give them choices: gently worn instead of new, one expensive item instead of two affordable ones, tops from the hip stores but generic bottoms.
If your kids are older consider letting them do their own shopping. Drop them off at the mall with a universal gift card preloaded with your child’s budget and a list of items that they need. Let them make the difficult decisions when it comes to limited resources and unlimited options. Your child will either impress you with their ability to stretch a dollar, or you will have to make some exchanges, but either way it’s a learning experience.
About the Author
Steve Repak, CFP® is the author of “Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training For Your Money.” For more information, please visit www.DollarsAndUncommonSense.com.