How to financially prepare your kids for back-to-school season

Parents aren’t the only ones pulling out their wallets for back-to-school season. According to a 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation, teens are spending an average of $36.71 of their own money and pre-teens an average of $26.40. 

This year, your back-to-school budgeting may be a little different (okay, a LOT), but one thing remains the same: A new school year means new costs. Which also means new opportunities for your kids to learn about money. Follow along for our tips on getting your kids ready for the upcoming school year!

Plan beyond the school supply list

School supply list with pencil and ruler

Back-to-school budgeting brings up a lot of conversation about school supplies for the first day, but what about the whole school year? When you sit down and talk to your kids about their school supply lists, you may want to chat about other expenses that might pop up throughout the year. Here are a few to consider:

  • Sports
  • Yearbooks
  • ACT/SAT study materials
  • Lunch money 
  • School pictures

Shifting over to a virtual learning environment? Some of the usual expenses may go away this year, but you should be ready for new ones. Think: Virtual classroom decorations, new desks and high-powered laptops.

Talk about back-to-school deals

Love a good BOGO deal? So do we. But your kids may not understand how much it matters to score a good deal — especially during a busy retail season like back-to-school season. 

As you probably know, smart shopping means looking for deals, shopping early and doing research before buying. To get your kids into these habits, try comparing prices online and showing them how to find discounts. Bonus: Help your kids make savings goals throughout the school year. They can do this with their Greenlight app

Separate wants from needs

Trade-off decision about spending extra on pizza delivery

Coming up with a back-to-school budget is a great time to talk about wants and needs. If your kids have a school supply list from their teacher, use it as a guide. If not, it doesn’t take too long to come up with one yourself — or use a quick start list of common items by grade

Go through your kids’ school supply lists one by one. Talk about each item and whether it’s a must-have or a nice-to-have. Then, decide how they (or you) would like to budget accordingly. Maybe your kids want to splurge on a set of trendy binders but they’re okay with buying cheaper folders and erasers. Or maybe they’d rather save for something else down the line, like a laptop or an iPad. And look at that… they’re already thinking about wants and needs! Piece of cake.

Always come back to learning

Your kids might be excited about the first day. They might be nervous. You might be stressing about setting up a virtual learning environment. Or maybe you’re just not ready to think about any of it yet!
 
Here’s what really matters: Your kids are learning. And we’re not just talking about school. Kids learn by doing chores, deciding how to spend their money and setting savings goals. Just pull up your Greenlight app and let the learning (and fun) begin.

This Greenlight teen used his savings to publish a book series about overcoming your fears

Writers move and shape our world, and we know a Greenlight teen who is making a big impact with his wordsmithing wisdom. Stephen M. is a 13-year-old who wrote a book, runs a side hustle and is saving his money to publish an entire series. Writers and dreamers — this one’s for you!

Meet Stephen 

Stephen is a writer, artist, musician, athlete and entrepreneur. WOW! He’s been playing baseball since he was little, coached by a special someone — his dad. Recently, he moved all the way from Florida to Alaska. (Talk about a big move!) And at 13 years old, he decided to publish a book.

Ever since he could talk, Stephen has had a stutter. While 5-10% of children have a stutter at some point, about 3 out of 4 children outgrow it. Stephen did not outgrow his stutter, but he did outgrow his fears. So, he turned to his pen and paper to weave together a story made to inspire and educate the world on speech fluency disorders and disabilities.

How Stephen got started

Growing up, Stephen faced challenges with his stutter. He took the time to learn about it and he discovered that our differences are what make us unique and special.

In true writer fashion, he channeled his thoughts and feelings into a story and named the book Stutter-fly. Stutter-fly follows the story of a butterfly named Jimmy, who goes on a journey to learn how to overcome his stutter. What he ends up learning is so much bigger: He learns to love himself for who he is.

When he finished his story, he had one last step before publishing it. He needed an illustrator to bring his words to life with beautiful imagery. Here’s where Stephen’s entrepreneurial spirit comes in handy. He pulled together his resources, whipped out his business brain and started selling water bottles and candy to pay for a professional illustrator. 

He set a savings goal of $2,000 in his Greenlight app and picked up weekly chores to earn an allowance on his Greenlight card. After reaching his goal and picking an illustrator, Stutter-fly was born. 

Just like Jimmy the Stutter-fly learned (you’ll have to read the whole story!), Stephen has learned an important lesson about being nice to others. He plans to publish a book series to inspire readers of all ages to appreciate our differences as part of our stories.

To put action behind his words, Stephen saves 10% of his earnings for a non-profit organization he’s planning to start for young Black authors aged 5 to 17. No matter how old you are or what you do, there’s always a chance to do good with your money. 

What’s next?

Writer’s block isn’t hitting Stephen anytime soon. He’s already brewing ideas for the next book in his series. That’s right — series. He’s got big plans, with a goal of $8,000 to help him live out his dreams and bring his words to the world. 

In honor of International Stuttering Awareness Day, we hope Stephen’s story can inspire you and your family. To learn about International Stuttering Awareness Day, read more on Stephen’s website or order his book, Stutter-fly, on Amazon.

5 ways to use your kids’ debit card to talk about holiday spending

As we come up on March 95th (er, autumn), it’s safe to say we could all use a little joy around here. The holidays are around the corner, which might mean gifts, homemade meals, decorations up the wazoo and of course… holiday spending. Grab your kids’ debit cards and open your Greenlight app for ways to budget for the season. 

Create a fall budgeting bucket list 

Illustration of fall leaves and rake

You’ve probably seen the fall bucket lists that are all over Pinterest right now. Your kids can make one too! With your budgeting bucket list, talk about saving, setting spending limits and picking up extra work to bump up the budget. Here’s a list for your kids to get started: 

  • Pick three outdoor chores to add to your rotation as the temperatures drop. Every two weeks of allowance (it’s automated!), put a % in your holiday gift funds.
  • Spend on one fun fall activity. Take a picture and pat yourself on the back because you budgeted for it. 
  • Set a new savings goal every month for the rest of the year. Have some fun with it! 
  • Have a practice negotiation exercise with a scarecrow or a pumpkin. Remember: negotiating your allowance impacts your budget! Make it fun with an autumn-themed negotiation subject. 

Let them spend

Probably not the advice you were expecting, right? Well, if you haven’t heard it enough from us… kids learn by doing. They learn what it means to spend money when they actually do it. 

Let’s face it — they’re going to spend money at some point. And if you want a nice gift over the holidays (wink, wink), it’s better to be there with them for their first big purchase so you can point out ways to save up for the next one. Go online shopping together and let them pay for a holiday item of their choice (like decorations for their room or a holiday gift) using their Greenlight card.

Look for sales together

Jack-o-lantern saying "Deal or no deal?"

You know what’s better than scoring a sale? Finding a sale with your child. It’s the parent jackpot because 1) You’re both saving money and 2) You’re laying the foundation for your kids to always look for sales. 

From early bird October deals to Black Friday, you have lots of opportunities to teach your kids the value of a good bargain. When Cyber Monday rolls around, take a moment to talk about online safety. And when we get to December (finally!), show your kids how to use their Greenlight app to create different buckets for their holiday spending. P.S., if it gets too out of hand, set spending limits in your companion app.

Make a gift list

One of the greatest joys of the holiday season is giving. Instill this habit in your kids by sitting down and drafting a gift list with them. From Uncle Jim’s chocolate-covered pretzels to gag gifts for the siblings, this exercise will get your kids ahead of the game on their shopping lists — with an estimated cost for each gift. 

Aside from holiday gifts, kids can also celebrate generosity by giving back to the community. This year, volunteering might be tough (unless you’re volunteering virtually), so a nice alternative way to give is by donating to charitable organizations.

 Remember what matters

It’s easy for shoppers of all ages to get caught up in the holiday spending chaos. With COVID-19, budgets may be tighter and celebrations may be different. Come back to what matters most: your family. 

While this may not be a “money talk,” it’s a great real-life talk. Let your kids ask their questions or express their opinions about this holiday season. We’re all doing the best we can, so if you need a friend, coupon expert or budgeting tool, you can always lean on Greenlight.