COLUMBIA, Mo. – Talk now. Shop later. That’s the advice a University of Missouri Extension family financial planning specialist gives parents who will soon be heading to the malls for back-to-school shopping.

Begin frank conversations about budget limitations long before you go to the stores, says Lucy Schrader. Giving children information in advance will help reduce stress and make the outing a fun family day.

Give children specific and realistic dollar amounts about what you are willing to spend on a back-to-school wardrobe, she said.

Do your homework before you shop to get an idea of how much things will cost.  This gives parents an opportunity to set realistic budgets.

Schrader also offers the following suggestions before shopping day:

  • Inventory the child’s present wardrobe. Clean out drawers and see what you can discard, give away or set aside for a garage sale. You may find that you can extend some of your child’s summer wardrobe into the early fall.
  • Decide a price limit on each item. This will keep you from spending too much on single items such as shoes.
  • Look for coupons and sales. Many department stores offer substantial savings to attract back-to-school shoppers. Enlist the help of your children so that you can teach them the value of comparison-shopping.
  • Teach children to look for good workmanship in products while shopping. What is a good value?
  • Consider the cost of upkeep. If an item needs dry cleaning or special care, factor in that cost in terms of dollars and time.
  • Measure the price of items against use. Pay more for items that will be worn regularly, as opposed to clothing that will be worn only for special occasions.
  • Buy less and wear it longer. Let children weigh in on whether they would like to have just a few higher-priced items rather than more lower-cost items.
  • Shop in stores that have a good reputation for fairness. Know their exchange and refund policies before you buy, as children grow rapidly and change their minds often.
  • Listen to your children when they are talking about fashion trends that are important to them. Maybe a few trendy accessories will be less expensive than complete outfits.
  • Talk with children about recycling clothing from friends, relatives, garage sales and consignment stores.

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