You and your children may have been doing a great job of ignoring back-to-school shopping season, but the air is getting cooler, the days are getting shorter, and it’s time to face the music.

Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada found that school supplies lists are asking parents to spend roughly $100 per child on the basics like pencils, erasers, and notebooks. Couponing website RetailMeNot.ca found that parents expect to spend a total of $300 per child when adding in all the extras like clothing and footwear.

If you have a couple of kids, that could mean coming up with an extra $1000 after what was probably an already expensive summer. And if you’re a single parent on a tight budget, there’s a good chance that your credit card will have to bear the brunt of back-to-school shopping.

For divorcees, every arrangement is unique, and you will want to consult your original cost-sharing agreement with your ex before you start shopping. If you are having difficulties with these agreements, you may want to seek some of the professional services listed on DivorceAngels.ca.

Once you are clear on “who buys what,” keep these tips in mind:

* Go in with a plan – This is a busy time of year for retailers and they will try to dazzle you with promotions and fancy displays. Your best defence is a list and a budget. Stick to the plan and use it as a shield against impulse buying.

* Think about wants vs needs – A no-name pencil case will hold just as many pens and pencils as one with your kid’s favourite super hero on it, but it will cost a fraction of the price. Saving a dollar here and there will add up if your list has thirty or forty items on it.

* Comparison shop – Major retailers are offering some great deals to get your business, so take advantage and scour the flyers. Know which stores to hit for which items and plan your route accordingly. Apps like Flipp will help speed up the process.

Nickel-and-diming each pack of pencils and erasers will amount to huge savings in the end. Be sure to share this fact with your children by involving them in the entire process. Showing them the value of careful planning, budgeting, and shopping will plant a very valuable seed about responsible money management.

Jeff Schwartz is the Executive Director Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada. You can learn more about Consolidated Credit on their website or check them out on Twitter @ConsolidatedCA or Facebook.

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