By Curtis Loftis, State Treasurer, South Carolina
August 10, 2021
The sound of ringing bells will soon mark the beginning of a brand-new school year. And for many areas of the country, 2021 classes will bring with them a welcome dose of pre-Covid normalcy.
As the important first day of school draws nearer, families are beginning the exciting search for the perfect binders, the right #2 pencils and a bookbag that will survive an active school year. Unfortunately, families may also find that new school gear can come with a pretty hefty price tag.
Use a few simple tips to help you shop smart, purchase the items you really need and save some hard-earned dollars for other important purchases:
- Double check your closet: Chances are you may already have some of the supplies you need. Check closets and drawers for binders, folders, and pencils from the previous school year that are still in good condition. It’s a bonus lessen for your kids on not being wasteful.
- Follow the list: Teachers often provide a list of required materials. Don’t stray from their suggestions. Prepare your child in advance that you will only be buying items from the list. When your child pleads for extra colored pencils, you can reiterate how important it is to stick to the list – for both of you!
- Shop with cash: Estimate how much money you’ll need to buy the items on your back-to-school list. Take that amount of cash to the store and try to buy all materials with cash only. That way you won’t be tempted to overspend. To brush up on math skills, let your child keep track of the price tags as you shop.
- Avoid big brands: It’s normal for your child to want the trendiest products from the most prestigious brands but explain that trends don’t always translate to the best quality. Well-known brands may come with higher prices, but their products are virtually the same as those with lesser known names.
- Use your enhanced child tax credit: If you qualify for the enhanced child tax credit, you can use some of the funds for back-to-school shopping – and use the rest to invest in your child’s educational future…
- Put that extra money toward a 529 college savings plan: One of the most important items you can put on your own back-to-school list is saving for your child’s future education. Open or add to a 529 college savings account for your child. Explain that you are investing in his or her future success. The two of you can check your account often to chart your progress toward your college savings goals.
Elizabeth Giuliani saves for her child’s college education with South Carolina’s Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan. “Show your child the 529 statements and then show them how much college costs,” she recommends. “Have them donate to the 529 account themselves as they get old enough to understand.”
This year use these back-to-school shopping tips to make yourself into a savvy back-to-school shopper. And when you purchase your child’s school supplies without breaking the bank, celebrate by using the cash you saved to open or add to your family’s own 529 college savings account. That way, instead of just being set for a successful school year, your child will be on the path to a successful future.
About the author: Curtis Loftis is the State Treasurer of South Carolina. He also serves as the administrator of South Carolina’s Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan. Visit treasurer.sc.gov or futurescholar.com for more information on ways to save through a 529 plan.