Be Smart and Save Money: 5 Tips for Back to School Shopping

First and foremost, when you’re shopping for back to school supplies, make sure you know what you have. Go through your kids’ rooms and take inventory of their clothing and any supplies they might have laying around. Clean out old backpacks and school bags. Take stock of supplies in your home office, in your kitchen drawers, in the hall closet. This way, you won’t continue to buy a protractor every year when you have a forgotten pile of them tucked away somewhere in your house.

Once you have a list of what you already have, you’ll be more focused on what you need. Using your inventory list, create a new list of items your kids absolutely need for the upcoming school year. Make copies of your finalized need list and give them to everyone in your family. If you and your family are tech-savvy, consider creating a shared google doc, or something of the like, so that you and your children can edit it together. This way, there should be no confusion on what’s been purchased and what you still need to buy.

Start buying early and plan your time

Planning ahead is really the best way to save money on back to school shopping. If you start looking at supplies and prices early, you’ll be better equipped to recognize and take advantage of the best sale prices.

Also, if you make a plan ahead of time, deciding which stores you and your kids will need to visit to get their supplies, you can track those stores easily by subscribing to their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Often, stores will post reminders of sales or even surprise offers to their subscribers. Following these stores early and often will help you get the most for your money.

Another benefit to starting your shopping early is the option of shopping online. Many times, you can find great deals shopping on Amazon, Overstock, even eBay or Craigslist. And, some stores offer online specific sales with better deals than you can find in store. So, don’t wait until the last week of summer to scramble and get your kids their supplies! Give yourself time to browse the internet too, and leave plenty of time for the great deals you find to be shipped to you.

Shop Tax Free Weekend and End of Summer Sales (but beware…)

Shopping on tax free weekend and during end of summer sales can be great ways to save money on back to school supplies. Parents should absolutely be aware of when tax free shopping occurs, and they should keep track of when their (and their kids’) favorite stores hold their end of summer sales.

However, it’s also a good idea to be critical of these seemingly fabulous sales. I worked at Old Navy throughout my high school and college years, so I have firsthand knowledge of some of the sneakier sides to summer sales. For example, sometimes stores will mark their prices up to full value during tax-free weekends, and other stores will actually run better sales before and after the big advertised “summer sale.” So be wary of the sales you see, and take the extra time to determine whether you’re getting the best deal. Don’t be fooled by the “tax-free” excitement of saving 7% on a shirt that costs $25 when it will be 50% off during next week’s less advertised sale.

Avoid unnecessaries and compromise with your kids

Fancy pencil pouches? Your kid has a backpack… that’s a pencil pouch right there. Cute, trendy, or graphic covered binders that cost 4x the amount of a regular, plain, binder? Who needs it? Chances are, your kid is going to either stuff some papers in there to keep for later, draw on it with markers or pens, or never take it out of his/her locker. Cutting down on the unnecessary items your kid wants but doesn’t need is a surefire way to save money.

But, if your son really wants the expensive backpack with a built in organizer, a hard-case pocket for his laptop, and a cool design on the front, compromise with him. If your daughter will not stop asking for the Vera Wang lunch bag she saw online the other day, compromise with her. Strike up a deal that they have to pay the difference between the backpack or lunch bag you want to buy for them and the one they want. They could cover this difference using saved up holiday money, allowance money, or by doing extra chores.

Be wary of teacher required lists

This last tip is a little variable, but here’s a secret from someone who’s taught high school for the past 5 years: Take our “required” school supply lists with a grain of salt. Again, this is the experience of just one teacher, but honestly, sometimes we don’t even know what our students will need for the entire year. My best advice is to buy the basics: pens, pencils, paper. Your child will always need something to write with and something to write on, but hold off on any excess- colored pencils, glue sticks, a binder for each class, rulers, etc.- until you know exactly what they’ll be using on a day-to-day basis

 

New Year Resolutions & Bright Futures

Studies have shown that financial health is strongly connected to physical and mental wellness. There’s no better time than now to start routines that set your kids up for financially-healthy and happy futures. Let Greenlight help you set new year resolutions that you’ll actually keep to jumpstart your progress.

Resolution #1: We all need a bit of balance (tracking)

Our goal at Greenlight is to make sure all kids are empowered to make financially-smart decisions. We think empowerment starts with knowledge — working with kids to make sure they understand how much they earn, how much they spend and how they should save. 

Tip #1 is all about making sure kids take the time regularly (dare we say it, daily?!) to track their spend history and account balances. This new year resolution will naturally spark conversations around trade-off decisions, teaching your kids responsibility in budget management.

Within the Greenlight app, kids are able to monitor their spending, earning, saving, and giving history. This allows kids (and parents!) to track:

  • How much to expect in allowance
  • How much is available to spend
  • Progress toward their saving goals

“I have two teens (13 & 14). Being able to see their spending and balances digitally via the app has made them much more mindful of how and when they choose to spend their money.”

Antoinette K, Greenlight mom

Resolution #2: Save! Save! Save!

We know it’s hard for kids (especially the young ones!) to understand the difference between wants and needs. Starting kids out with a savings account early can teach them to save for what they want and be prepared to cover what they need because unexpected things happen. 

Consider mapping out a monthly plan with your kids to help them articulate, save for and reach their goals. 

The most popular saving goal for Greenlight kids in 2019 was a car!

If your kids earn an allowance based on grades or chore completion, write out how much each grade or task is worth. That will help them calculate what they need to do to accomplish their goals.

Parents are also able to help their kids reach their goals by setting aside a portion of allowances into their child’s Greenlight save account, helping reinforce wise saving habits.

Setting up saving goals within the Greenlight app helps kids visualize what they’re saving for and regularly track their progress.

Greenlight kids who create saving goals save 29% more than kids who don’t.

Once a week, consider having a family meeting to talk about how close your kids are to reaching their goal. Reviewing their spend history can help kids rethink a plan for the next week on how to spend less and save more. This regular routine can turn into a long-term habit that magically reduces the number of times you get asked for money.

Resolution #3: Watch savings grow with Parent-Paid Interest

After you get your family into the habit of saving, it’s time to learn about how to make your savings grow. Greenlight helps teach the power of compound interest by offering parents the ability to pay a parent-paid interest rate on top of their child’s savings.

On average, Greenlight families set a parent-paid interest rate of 18%. 

Once your kids understand the concept of compound interest, you can set your parent-paid interest rate to a more realistic one and have conversations around what grownup savings accounts typically earn.

Resolution #4: Have you done your chores?

Chore routines can be a great way to show your kids that money has to be earned. A recent poll of Greenlight parents showed that 73% give allowance, and 47% say their kids have to earn it. 

Use the beginning of the year to reassess your family’s chore routine. With age may come new responsibilities, changing the chores typically assigned to your kids.

However, if ever, you choose to reward your kids for chores, Greenlight can help with task management. With the Greenlight app, you can set one-time or weekly chores based on the routines you set for your family. 

In 2019, Greenlight helped kids finish 1.8 million chores!

Parent reviews all chores in one view within the Greenlight app.

If your child does dishes weekly, Greenlight allows parents to assign tasks and regular deadlines. If your child contributes to other household responsibilities by cleaning the gutters once a month, one-time chores may be assigned with an optional monetary reward upon completion.

Whatever your goals, Greenlight is here for you.

Greenlight is here to help your family feel empowered to talk about money and form smart habits with all the tools to raise financially-smart kids. Not a Greenlight member? Sign up today!

Greenlight’s 2019 Year in Review

You did it. You celebrated the birthdays, packed lunches for soccer tournaments and survived the endless conversation about Minecraft. Congratulations, Moms and Dads — you’ve made it through 2019. 

As we look toward 2020, allow us to celebrate the unsung heroes of financial literacy – YOU! The hundreds of thousands of Greenlight parents teaching their kids the value of a dollar and the art of making smart trade-off decisions.

In 2019, Greenlight kids did 1.8 million chores and collectively managed more than $150 million. But that’s not all.

Greenlight's 2019 Year in Review infographic. 
Kids managed $150+ million in 2019.
They set aside $2.6 million to give and did 1.8 million chores.
On average, they spend $91 per month, and 30% of what they spent went toward food and grocery.

Looking toward 2020

In 2020, we’ve got big plans to improve the Greenlight app and add more features for your kids to learn the full-spectrum of money management.

We’ll be weaving more educational layers into the Greenlight app, making it fun (and painless!) for kids to build smart earning, spending, saving and giving habits.

Our team is also building tools for kids to learn all about the world of investing, with a new suite of features that allow kids to invest in multiple funds and even buy fractional shares from their favorite companies.

Our single most important job is to support you – the parents doing the hard work. Together, let’s make 2020 the Year of Financial Literacy.

*Data captured from Greenlight families based on activity from Dec 2018 to Nov 2019. Average monthly spend calculated only for kids who spent.