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"Useful Back to School Planning Tips from the ICFE"

RELEASE: August 2002
CONTACT: Paul S. Richard, ICFE Executive Director

San Diego, CA. "Do you have money saved to spend on back to school expenses? Even if you don't, you may soon be in the market for backpacks and other school necessities, so start saving today because last year, adults spent about $520 on back to school items,” said Paul S. Richard, executive director of the nonprofit Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) based in San Diego, CA. The ICFE helps consumer's spend smarter and obtain a greater value with their purchases through a variety of programs and its Web site.

"Back to school clothes, calculators, software programs and other school supplies add up in a hurry. Many families with more than one child going to school need to plan for large expenditures and back to school purchases may be minimized when planned in advance. Help your youngsters learn how to determine between their needs and wants before going shopping.

In 2001, a retailer's association asked about 1,000 adults to total up their planned back to school expenses and they came up with an average of $519. The breakdown includes: $297 on apparel; $171 on consumer electronics; and $51 on school supplies. These totals should come as no surprise because retailers report that the weeks before school resumes, in the fall, are among the busiest of the year.

Following are seven planning and budgeting tips that will help stretch back to school dollars, if you are in charge of your family's back to school shopping.

  1. Take an inventory to see what you have first. Before shopping, list children's clothing and electronic items and compare them against your needs. The last thing you want to do is buy duplicate pants and calculators, but, you may without an inventory list.

  2. Make a list. Write down what you or your children need in terms of shirts, trousers, computer discs, children's organizers, backpacks, folders and writing utensils. You will spend less money if you stick to a formal list while shopping.

  3. Decide how much you can spend. Take your list and add up all the items. If it is more than you can afford to spend, look for placesto reduce expenses. Reconcile your needs versus your Resources. If you have a tight budget, you may have to look at less expensive clothing brands or consumer electronics. Other options include hand-me down apparel, clothes from relatives or used clothing stores.

  4. Compare prices. Remember that Yellow Pages advertisement about letting your fingers do the walking? The same could be said of the Internet. With a computer, a modem and an Internet Service Provider, you can search and research the virtual aisles of leading retailers like Walmart.

  5. Take advantage of special sales. Keep an eye out for back to school ads in your local newspapers and on local television stations. If you live in a state like Texas that has a sales tax holiday on many clothing items during the first weekend in August, you can time your purchases for additional savings.

  6. Pay with cash. If you have to use credit, try to limit your purchases to items you can pay off within 90 days. You don't want to be paying on your back to school purchases this time next year.

  7. Get help if needed. Back to school expenses can wreck an already stretched budget. If you need help, visit the ICFE's Web site at It has tools to help you develop a one-page spending plan, a/k/a budget, ( assess your financial situation and explore other options.

Follow these seven planning and budgeting tips and you will get a passing grade when it comes to making the most out of back to school dollars. For more information on improving spending techniques, visit: For readers without Internet access, you may receive the same information by sending $1 and a self- addressed, 60 cent stamped envelope to:

ICFE Back-to-school Spending
PO Box 34070
San Diego, CA 92163-4070

About the ICFE:

The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation).  The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely. 
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.

The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (  CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed.  In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the ( web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.

The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much.  ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.

Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: and  Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G,  a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.

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PO Box 34070
San Diego, Ca 92163
Paul S. Richard, Executive Director
Phone 619-239-1401

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