WATCH THE DOLLAR SIGN

Summer is almost through and as our senior citizens would say ‘free paper done.’ In a few weeks students of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds will be walking through the gates of institutions across Jamaica. Some will be aiming for excellent grades so they can fulfil dreams and aspirations for their futures, some just want to have fun and others a little of both. This is a bitter sweet moment for parents, and guardians alike, as it marks a new beginning in the lives of their children. A new beginning which brings possible life-long friends, memories, failures, accomplishments, adventure and…….spending. It’s now crunch time and the school lists are being checked and funds are being spent to try and gather the class materials needed before the first day of classes. Wait a sec!
We as parents are tempted to buy what our children want and then later suffer the financial setbacks. However, before you go and spend vast amounts of money, you have to plan in order to spend wisely. There are a few things each parent can do to cut down on the lump sum for back-to-school purchases and avoid over buying items.
1. Make your list
Take out a note pad or a ruled sheet and go into your child’s room and take note of anything you believe he/she will use during the school year. Your master list should include uniforms, a school bag, specific stationery (such as pens, pencils and binders), lunch containers and school shoes. I would advise that you include your child in this process to ensure that you cover all that can possibly fit into this general list – whether or not you plan on purchasing it.
2. Check your Inventory
At the end of each school year there might be some items such as books, specific to a grade level, or clothes that are a little small and will not fit properly in the coming months. I suggest that during this process you should keep a large ‘good will’ container nearby just in case you need to remove some items that your child has out grown and that are in a good condition to be donated to another child or a children’s home. Tick off the items on your list that can be used during the coming school year; which could range from pens and pencils to the lunch kit/bag.
You should also check your our own supplies to see if you have items, such as binders and note pads, that could be used and/or manually decorated for school.
3. Network and swap
Your next step will be to dialogue with family, friends and other associates who have children to investigate whether or not they have some of the school materials that you need. Not every parent will be fortunate enough to find persons to acquire some of these items from, however, ‘nutnu tried, nutnu done.’ In some cases you may find that some text books from the school list, binders, geometry set pieces, crayons and other well used items can be taken off the shopping list and traded for items and materials that your child no longer has use for.
If you are unable to attain anything through this venture it is still mutually beneficial that you give away the items in the ‘good will’ container, which was previously created, to person who would appreciate them; this would make space for new items.
4. Prioritize needs versus wants
Children can be very persuasive at times and have the whims to charm us into to believing that things like brands and accessories are important for school. Whether or not we believe we sometimes give in to the coaxing and that only results in getting them what they want – even if we know they will hardly use it because it is a periodic favourite. To avoid spending unnecessary funds we have to divide the items left on our master list into two sub lists; ‘NEEDS’ and ‘WANTS.’ Be objective with sorting the items as these lists can influence the amount of money you will spend on back to school purchases. Allow your child the opportunity to rationalize why he/she would need some items from the wants column and decide whether or not it is worth the extra dollar. When you feel satisfied with your lists put the WANTS list on your reminder board and focus on NEEDS. In the NEEDS column you will need to prioritize from the most important to the least important.
5. Research
I for one can admit that I do not like to walk far and long especially with the scorching sun overhead. However, to save an extra dollar I will go the extra mile. In Jamaica’s harsh economic climate we have to ensure that we watch over our money to ensure we retain and save as much of it as we can. Ask fellow parents of the prices of the items they have gathered and compare prices. Ensure that you look for the bargains and discounts to get value for your money. You could also grab an umbrella and go price hunting. From this you create can create a basic budget.
6. Shop Strategically
Now that you have done your research and compared prices all that is left is to chose the best price for value deals and shop! After you have exhausted the NEEDS list you can prioritize the wants if the budget has not been exceeded.
Remember to consider the VALUE over the BRAND.