Back-to-School Shopping Psychological Hacks for Your Kids

Brynne Conroy

back-to-school shopping hacks

By this point, you probably know all the back-to-school savings hacks. Take inventory of what you already have. Check the circulars. Wait as long as you can to go shopping because prices will drop near the end of the season. Shop thrift and consignment as often as possible.

But what do you do when your seven-year-old gets all excited for over-priced Minecraft folders, backpacks, pencils and tees?

What do you do when your middle schooler is crying because everyone will know that she bought something at Plato’s closet, and the consignment store isn’t carrying this season's trends?

It’s really cute to see young children get excited about going back to school. And it’s really hard to see middle schoolers going through the real agony of peer pressure as they work through some of the hardest social years of their lives.

But neither of these situations are an excuse to spend money you don’t have. Instead, you can use these psychological money hacks to help your children understand and take command of the back-to-school budget. An empowered child is a much happier and more compliant child, and empowering them with financial decisions at a young age is a good habit that will increase their fiscal confidence.

Back-to-School Savings Hacks for Elementary Students

Let’s go back to those Minecraft school supplies. Odds are, not all of them will fit into your budget. That’s why it’s important to set some ground rules before you go shopping.

Sit down and have a talk with your child about the budget. You don’t have to get overly specific, throwing around dollars and cents. Instead, tell them you can afford to buy one (or two—depending on your budget) items featuring Minecraft. They will get to pick what that item is, but the rest of their haul will be more generic.

Once you get to the store, point out their decisions. When they throw that Minecraft backpack into the cart, remind them that it will be their only Minecraft item. After they agree and then proceed to pickup three Minecraft-themed tees, ask them which one they like more—one of the shirts or the backpack. Because they can only have one. It’s 100% their decision, but they must abide by the budget rules.

This will give them an age-appropriate amount of power over back-to-school spending decisions, and reduce the amount of tantrums or overspending.

Back-to-School Savings Hacks for Middle Schoolers

If there’s one part of the budget your middle schooler is really honed in on, it’s likely clothes. As a parent, sit down and figure out how much you have to allot to that category. Then, sit down with your child and explain that there’s a limited budget--that’s just how life works. Also let them know that you’ll give them this budget to use as they see fit, under one condition: They must review the savings hacks you know so well. Explain that:

  • Clothes are going to be a whole lot cheaper in September, giving them more bang for their buck.
  • Consignment stores often have extremely gently-used, brand-name items at a significantly reduced price.
  • Signing up for email alerts will give them access to exclusive coupons and coupon codes from their favorite clothiers.
  • They might already have stuff in their closet they’ve worn once or never worn at all. Going through those items can save them money.

If your child decides to buy two pairs of expensive jeans and a designer crop top with the money, that’s on them. They can deal with the consequences of only having one or two new outfits. But odds are, they’ll start to see the value of consignment or be more willing to shop department stores instead of over-priced, brand-name retailers with their own storefronts. Because once your child views these financial decisions as their own, they’ll want to prove how mature they are—or they’ll learn a valuable, though difficult, lesson.

Either way, you won’t go over budget.

Back-to-School Savings Hacks for High Schoolers

High schoolers are inundated by peer pressure, too, and they’re also likely to complain and try to cajole you into making extraneous purchases. Give them the amount you have for each category—backpacks, electronics, clothing, office supplies (like colored pencils, wide-ruled notebooks, etc.)

That thing you had your middle schooler do? Do that for your high school student across all the spending categories. The responsibility will make them feel grown, and teach them some valuable lessons about necessities vs wants before they go off to manage their money on their own in college.