Budgeting for Back-to-School Shopping

back-to-school shoppingThe following article was published by the MSCPA.

Children across the Commonwealth will head back to class in just a few weeks, and that means it is time to plan your back-to-school shopping budget. From the latest athletic shoes, clothing and supplies, the price tags can really add up.

The Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants (MSCPA) recommends five ways to prepare for and save money on back-to-school expenses.

1. Take advantage of Massachusetts’ tax-free weekend.
Stores across the state are expected to honor a sales tax holiday August 10–11, 2013, to assist Massachusetts parents with back-to-school shopping expenses. During this two-day period, purchases of certain school supplies, clothing and footwear will be exempt from Massachusetts sales tax.

To receive the exemption, each item must cost under $2,500, and each item of clothing must be priced at $175 or less. All items must be purchased for personal use only to be eligible for the sales tax holiday. Guidelines are available online. CPAs caution, however, that a good deal should not be an excuse to overspend.

2. Do a closet inventory.
Everyone knows kids grow out of clothes quickly. But before counting out last season’s wardrobe, check the closet to see if those khaki pants or that T-shirt still fit and are in good shape. Maybe an older sibling’s gently worn clothes could be used to supplement a younger child’s back-to-school clothes.

3. Set a spending plan.
Before you head to the nearest mall, make sure you have your shopping list in hand. Without a predetermined list of needed items, you could be asking for trouble. Items to possibly include on your list, in addition to clothing and shoes, are sporting or hobby equipment like cleats or ballet slippers; class supplies like notebooks, binders and crayons; and electronic devices or computer equipment.

As part of your spending plan, figure out how many pairs of pants, shirts, and socks your child needs. Remember, buying mix-and-match clothing may be less expensive in the long run than buying pants that can only be worn with certain tops, and vice versa. Also, consult the school’s dress policy first to make sure your child can actually wear what you buy.

4. Involve your children.
Back-to-school shopping provides an excellent opportunity to teach your children money management skills. Concepts like comparison shopping, distinguishing needs from wants, and sticking to a budget can all be taught during back-to-school shopping.

5. Look for deals year-round.
Nothing says your children must start the first day of school with a closet full of new outfits. Buy the necessities prior to the first day of class and then keep an eye on sales and other bargains throughout the year to finish out the rest. Plus, if your child experiences a huge growth spurt, you will not have wasted your entire year’s clothing budget at the beginning of the school year.

There are many simple ways to make good money management part of your daily life. Your CPA will work with you to ensure you take the right steps to secure your family’s financial future.

About cozbycpa

Heather L. Cozby is a CPA on the South Shore and Cape Cod. The managing partner of Cozby & Company, LLC, Heather has the resources and experience necessary to provide quality professional services on a timely basis and at a reasonable cost. She specializes in tax planning & preparation; audit, review & compilation services; management advisory services; bookkeeping; and accounting. Her unique niche is in working with homeowners’ associations and condominium trusts, advising with rental real estate, and providing outsourced financial consulting for mid-sized companies. She is more entrepreneurial than most accountants, and offers the best of both worlds - providing the services of a larger firm while retaining the ability to connect with her clients on a personal level.
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