It's Your Money  

Back-to-school planning

A new school year is just around the corner, and this one will no doubt look different from more “normal” years.

While many parents are still wondering how classes will look and what extra steps are needed to protect their children, at the end of the day most kids will still be going back in some fashion.

That means the usual back-to-school routines will likely be followed. 

But in these unusual times, when many Canadians are trying to be extra vigilant about their financial security, should the normal routines be followed?

For example, many parents seem to think that a whole new wardrobe is needed to kick off a new school year.

But is it really necessary? Are the clothes your kid is wearing this week going to be suddenly too small or out of fashion?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand students have a list of school supplies they will need to pick up, but that doesn’t mean a major spending spree needs to take place.

Half of those supplies are likely still sitting in a drawer from last year if you take some time to dig them out.

And yes, kids seem to grow incredibly quickly, so some new clothes may be required. But a complete wardrobe replacement should really be seen as excessive.

The point of all this? If you spend a bit of time creating a plan before you start spending on back to school wants or needs, you’ll be much less likely to over-spend.

As an added bonus, involving your child in the planning process can help them learn some valuable financial skills at the same time.

Before you go out shopping (or start shopping online), you should have a list of items you want and those that you definitely need. Consider buying only the items on the need side, or maybe putting a maximum budget to be spent on a few of the items on the want side.

You could even turn this into a friendly competition to see which kid can get everything on their need side for the least amount of money with a prize being an item from the wants.

A little bit of creativity here can go a long way. 

When you add up the cost of school supplies, clothing, electronics, and field trip fee and extra-curricular activities, September is an expensive time – even more so in a year when many people have faced reduced hours, job losses or other financial setbacks.

Instead of spending too much on this year’s back-to-school needs and putting your finances further behind, approach this September with a financial plan to keep things on track.


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About the Author

Brett, designated as a chartered investment manager and certified financial planner, is the regional director (Okanagan) for IG Wealth Management.

In addition to his “day job," Brett was appointed to the board of directors of FP Canada (formerly FPSC) in 2014, named as the board’s vice-chair in 2017 and took over as board chairman in 2019. 

Brett has been writing a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy to understand explanations of the complex financial challenges that they face in every stage of life.

Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority of Brett’s and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer and on the regulatory side through the FP Canada board focus on this initiative.   

Please let Brett know if you have any topics that you’d like him to cover in future columns by emailing him at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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