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How to Avoid Piling on Consumer Debt

July is a lot closer to the end of the school year than it is to the beginning of the next. But we all know that summer can fly by. In two short months, kids will be going back to the classroom, and the costs of back-to-school shopping could leave you with unwanted consumer debt.

Instead of waiting until the week before school starts to tackle the long shopping list, consider starting in July. Spreading out your shopping (and spending) over the next couple of months can make it easier to bear the burden of back-to-school expenses.

Did you know that last year, Canadian households were expected to pay an average of over $800 for back-to-school shopping?

What if you don’t have that money put aside for school expenses? It can be tempting to pull out your credit card to cover your costs. If you can pay off those expenses on next month’s credit card statement, great. If you can’t, you’ll not only end up with consumer debt, you’ll be paying interest charges on your purchases.

Considering recent interest rate hikes and the abundance of high-interest on credit card debt in many households, most parents don’t want or need that additional debt.

Retailers have it right

A lot of consumers groan at the idea of holiday or seasonal goods showing up on store shelves months in advance. Not everyone is ready to Christmas shop before they’ve had their Thanksgiving turkey.

But when it comes to school supplies, retailers have it right. Most major retailers already have school supplies in stock. That means that you can start crossing items like notebooks, calculators and pens off of your list in July.

The same goes for back-to-school clothes. Even though the heat of summer is just getting started, a lot of clothing stores are already putting up their fall displays. Think of the pre-season savings! And summer clothing sales could help you stock up on great year-round basics like t-shirts, gym shorts and socks.

Don’t overspend or over shop

The excitement and urgency of back to school can take over pretty easily when you’re winding your cart through the aisles of supplies with your kids. But don’t let the availability of things trick you into over shopping and overspending.

Pick up part of your kids’ wardrobes in July and August, and continue to fill our their closets into the fall as you see sales popping up. Just as quickly as fall fashions appear on the shelves, the winter ones will follow, meaning there will be sales on fall basics just after your kids return to the classroom.

The same goes for school supplies.

Kids need a small pile of things to get them going, and certain things can’t wait. (If they’re starting high school algebra or calculus in September, they’ll need that graphing calculator.)

But school supplies don’t disappear after Labour Day. They’ll still be widely available in your local stores, and online shopping for supplies has never been easier. Before hitting the stores, look around your house or your kids’ rooms. You’ll probably find leftover supplies from last year — stacks of unused lined paper, excess pens or highlighters. Use up what you have and take a quick trip to the store as needed in the months to come.

Holidays can play double duty

With the technology crazed world, there’s never a time that a new electronic isn’t a good gift. If your kids can make do with their current tablet or computer for a few months, consider putting off that purchase until a good deal comes along. You can put the new one under the tree instead!

The same can be said for new clothes and shoes as the seasons change and they outgrow (or, um, misplace…) their current items.

Back-to-school shopping is expensive, and it can be a real strain on family finances —especially if school purchases result in additional consumer debt. Consider changing your spending strategy this year. By spreading the costs out over the summer — and even the entire school year — you may be able to reduce any extra debt, or cut it out altogether.

Looking for more back-to-school spending and saving strategies? Check out Kerry Taylor’s back-to-school saving tips on her website Squawkfox.

How do you cut back-to-school costs in the summer? Tell us on Twitter. #BacktoSchool #DebtSolutions #FamilyFinances

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