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Back to School: How to Avoid Debt Relief

Here in July, it’s true that the dog days of summer are still ahead of us. For Canadian parents needing debt relief, though, the omen of back-to-school spending can come early on. This year, it’s time to meet those worries with an action plan.

A RetailMeNot Inc. poll from last summer found that parents expected to spend almost double what they spend on school supplies in 2017, compared to the previous year, averaging a total cost of $883 per household. One of the factors here is high tech, which has changed the classroom teaching method, and brand-name clothing — Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger for example saw earnings jumps of 8 and 4 per cent, respectively, over that same period.

While back-to-school spending can’t be avoided, there are plenty of strategies parents can use to avoid a post-September debt load. One of those is to start your research now — deal hunting during the summer when prices are down. Retail stats show that August is the best time to buy things like backpacks, supplies, and headphones, while September is the best time to buy bikes as outdoor stores try to turn over their shelves.

In order to get started with these and other plans, here are five online articles that can help parents avoid consumer debt during an early back-to-school season:

“How to Make Back to School Shopping Work with a Tiny Budget” – Kelsey Mazzone, Yummy Mummy Club

Mazzone starts by stressing the importance of having a budget, having a list, and sticking to the plan when fall comes around. Over-spending is easy when you’re buying lots at the same time and stores take advantage of this with enticing sales on big-ticket products. Avoiding temptation is easier if you put pen to paper and tell yourself that the plan is most important.

“How to Get the Most Out of Your Back-To-School Budget” – Cheyenne Cheung,

One good tip from Cheung here is to highlight conversation with your child. Try to help them understand that it’s not possible to get a new backpack or pencil case every year based on mom and dad’s budget. Or, have them offer to help (cut a deal) with their allowance, if they have one.

“Don’t Let Back to School Break the Bank” – Karen Richardson, Money Coaches Canada

Among several tips, Richardson echoes the importance of planning ahead, but also not worrying about having everything for the first day of school. As we mentioned above, sometimes the best sales come a few weeks after classes are in session. 

“5 Back to School Saving Tips” – Barry Choi, Money We Have

One of Choi’s pieces of advice tackles a lesser-discussed expense of back-to-school: lunches. As kids get older, food waste can become an issue if they’re tossing things they don’t like and coming home hungry. (Remember snack swaps, anyone?) Talking to your child about what healthy foods they like and don’t like can make sure your grocery bill isn’t ending up in a fourth-grade classroom garbage can.

“Save on Back to School Supplies” – Sarah Deveau, Yummy Mummy Club

These are some easy tips for parents that you can start on right away. Deveau suggests scouring your house for supplies from previous years, checking closets, and having kids help with creating a budget. Also: generic brands will keep costs down!

These articles are a great starting point for Canadian parents trying to prioritize debt relief during a costly back-to-school season. By getting a head start in July, you can be prepared for a less expensive August and September.

Have other tips for back-to-school savings, or online resources to share? Join the conversation on social media by using the hashtags #BackToSchool, #DebtSolutions, and #KidsAndMoney.

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