Company behind popular Money Habitudes cards encourages people to think about money with a list of reasons specific to the back-to-school season. Good conversations about money and finances happen when they are proactive and constructive. Assessing one’s habits and attitudes related to money in a fun, non-threatening manner can be an effective first step in handling larger issues.

 

Wilmington, NC, August 22, 2009 — LifeWise promotes making healthy financial decisions with its latest list of seasonal reasons to have a constructive conversation about money. Because money plays such a central role in our lives, people benefit by talking proactively about it instead of waiting until there is a critical need to discuss finances. And with every season come specific challenges and opportunities around money management, be it planning for summer vacation, battling the excesses of the holiday season, or shopping for back-to-school.”

 

The back-to-school season is exciting, but it can also be daunting when it comes to restocking wardrobes and lockers and making big purchases like computers. There are perhaps hundreds of little back-to-school decisions that people make about money, but if we understand how we relate to money, we’re better equipped to make healthier, balanced choices,” says Syble Solomon, president of LifeWise and creator of Money Habitudes™, the leading conversation-starter about people’s habits and attitudes about money.

Although analysts predict that back-to-school spending will be down 7.7 percent from 2008, the National Retail Federation estimates that the average family with students from Kindergarten through twelfth grade will still spend approximately $550 per child on school merchandise.

As opposed to other high-intensity spending periods, during back-to-school, children are very involved and exposed to their parents’ money decisions. As a result, these few weeks offer a great opportunity to model good money behavior; however, a trip to the mall to pick up shirts or notebooks may also highlight parents’ troublesome money habits.

Use the following questions and topics as you consider what will influence your buying decisions when you shop with your kids and what messages you will give them:

  1. Savings vs. Value: If you hold onto money very tightly, you may be a penny wise and a pound foolish. When the price tag is your only criteria for making choices, value can be sacrificed and, in the long run, it may cost more money. For example, do you buy a cheap book bag and have to replace it every couple of months? Do you scrimp on a computer or software and then waste hours because it is unreliable or doesn’t meet your student’s needs? Know when it’s worth spending more money for value and when it isn’t. Point out the differences between products to help your child learn how to make wiser choices.
  2. Needs vs. Wants: If you love to shop and are easily influenced by salespeople, or if you are living vicariously through your children’s purchases, you may find yourself buying items your child doesn’t need and may not even want. A cell phone may be a necessity, but do you need all the bells and whistles? When you go through the school supply aisles, if you know you’re easily tempted to buy the high-end $20 pen, cute paper clips and other impulse buys, go with a list of what you need and decide ahead of time if you will allow yourself and your children one impulse item – and what is the most you will spend for it. Parents who compare prices, differentiate between a need and a want, shop from a list and do allow a “fun buy” within reason are modeling how to make good choices and not feel deprived.
  3. Planning vs. Last Minute Shopping: If you value saving and planning, you may order books and supplies online ahead of time and save a lot of money. This makes sense, but beware – if you like the rush of last minute shopping, or if the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience is a family tradition, you may find yourself in the stores spending money just to enjoy the tradition. Know your own style and recognize it so you’re conscious about not falling into the trap of last-minute shopping – but you can also start a new tradition of having a fun family adventure, or perhaps preparing a special meal, to celebrate the new school year. Your children will see you modeling a balanced approach to planning-and-saving with spending-and-enjoying.

Four more quick tips to help children learn good money messages during back-to-school shopping:

  1. Remember your children are constantly learning from your actions. If you don’t make time for them except to go shopping and then buy them anything they want, they may get the message that you don’t really value them and giving “things” represents being loved and accepted.
  2. Give children choices and then accept their choice even if it isn’t yours. It gives them a sense of control and being respected and teaches them to accept the consequences of their decisions. If they get tired of the outrageous design on their jacket, it was their choice and they have to live with it.
  3. Avoid ever equating your child’s worth with what you will spend. Eliminate comments such as: I would never spend that much money on you. You’re not worth it. When you start acting better, I might buy you more. Likewise, stop using these statements as well: You’re worth every penny I spend on you. You deserve only the best. You’re so good I don’t mind spending more money on you.
  4. Involve your children in the shopping process. Let them look at ads, brainstorm the list of things they need and know how much you plan to spend. Talk about trade-offs so they can make choices. If they want the newest notebook or shoes that cost considerably more, what will they choose to give up or spend less on to stay within the budget?

Back-to-school shopping is a time of unlimited teachable moments to help your children develop a healthy relationship with money and important life skills. Use the opportunity to have conversations that help them learn to respect money, use it wisely and make good choices.

Money Habitudes™ is the leading constructive conversation-starter to get people thinking and talking about money and the issues related to it in a fun, engaging and non-threatening way. Appropriate for individuals, couples and groups, Money Habitudes is a training and learning tool that works like a card game and is available for adults, young adults, teens and Spanish speakers. It is being used by thousands of people across the U.S. and in 40 other countries. In addition, professionals such as therapists, counselors, educators and financial advisors use Money Habitudes. The cards are employed in educational, faith-based, community, military and professional settings as a stand-alone activity or in conjunction with comprehensive financial planning, career development, relationship-building, conflict resolution, financial literacy, marriage education and life-skills programs. Solomon, the creator of Money Habitudes, is a popular speaker. She is the recipient of the 2009 Smart Marriages Impact Award for the cards’ role in promoting healthy relationships. She was also named Educator of the Year (2006) by the Association of Financial Planning and Counseling Education.

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