Reuters Money

Back-to-school spending tests your wallet and your patience

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A child watches from a school bus in New York January 6, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton Remember when you could outfit a kid with roughly $20 in school supplies? Now there’s a lesson in ancient history, folks.

In present-day Chicago, the list of required items for two public school students can easily top $200. And the author of this article, a father of two, has a fresh receipt to prove it: The total at Office Depot last week to outfit a fourth-grade boy and a second-grade girl came to $196.13 before cashing in a $20 coupon.

All that spending on pencils, paper, wipes and markers, by the way, doesn’t include what many moms, dads and kids also consider fall necessities—items from new school clothes to smartphones for older kids. Parents are frustrated with school district supply lists that grow even as their income shrinks or stagnates. It’s no longer just a matter of pencils and notebooks, but tissues, hand sanitizer, wipes, paper towels, academic planners and much, much more. A student’s back-to-school arsenal can also include new footwear, clothing and computer equipment. And on the tech side, more kids demand smartphones (even if they’re not getting them) and e-readers.

What’s a parent to do, then? Experts say you can fight the back-to-school shopping blues in many ways, and offer powerful tips for doing so:

Should you invest in your kid’s digital footprint?

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Meet Lucy Boudreaux, the queen of social media. She has a personal website at Lucyboudreaux.com, is @lucyboudreaux on Twitter, and has her own Gmail address, as well as an active Facebook page.
Lucy Boudreaux is eight months old.

At an age when most babies are clutching their binkies, or spitting out pureed squash, Lucy Boudreaux has a fully realized online presence. And her primary employee – dad H. Jude Boudreaux, founder of New Orleans’ Upperline Financial Planning – wouldn’t have it any other way.

Developing children charity champions

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Developing our children into charity champions isn’t rocket science. What it takes is a decision, direction and discipline.

Decision
The first step is to decide when to introduce the concept of charitable giving to your children. “A child of about four- or five-years-old can begin to understand the concept,” says Melissa Berman, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. The exercise of cleaning out a child’s room and then taking them, with their old toys and clothes, to a shelter can be an educational experience. It shows that other kids need stuff that they take for granted.

When teaching kids about money, it’s not math — it’s values

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Beth Kobliner is a personal finance commentator and journalist, and the author of the New York Times bestseller GET A FINANCIAL LIFE®: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties. She was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, a bipartisan committee charged with tackling the problem of financial illiteracy in our country. The opinions expressed here are her own.

Beth Kobliner is pictured in this undated handout photo. © 2010 Sesame Workshop. “Sesame Street” and its logo are trademarks of Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved. Photo by Richard Termine. REUTERS/Handout

Kids are never too young to learn about money. (I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, blogging on this site!) But even though I’ve been saying that for a while, I never had a trusted resource to share with parents.

How to avoid boomerang kids

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Attention blissful empty-nestersA student yawns during the "Fundamentals of Algebra" class, which is held from 11:45pm to 2:30am, at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachusetts September 8, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder  : there’s a good chance your college graduates will be moving back home.

That’s the not-so-pretty picture being painted by a handful of grim reports, including Monster.com’s “2010 State of the College Workplace,” which found that a whopping 52 percent of recent grads are living with their parents, up from 40 percent in 2009.

Lights, Camera, Save! Money lessons for kids

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A piggy bank is seen in this file photo. REUTERS/Jill KitchenerIt is never too early to start teaching kids about the importance of saving money. But sometimes that process can be dull. So what about creating a money lesson that is fun and still inspires kids to save money rather than spend it?

The American Bankers Association (ABA) Education Foundation set out to do just that. The ABA launched a new initiative called Lights, Camera, Save! — a national video contest aimed at getting kids to think about creative ways to save money.

Teen checking accounts: Tools to help kids manage cash

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Ginger Ewing is pictured in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/HandoutAs an Ameriprise financial adviser with three school-aged children and two pre-schoolers, Ginger Ewing knows a thing or two about kids and money. She instructs her wee ones on the principles of saving with a cash allowance. Her 8-year-old recently got a crash course on the family’s $700 December utility bill. But Ewing’s brood may be an anomaly.

Kids, especially teenagers, are more plugged in than ever. Online billing and mobile banking apps have replaced trips to the bank teller. The tangibility of money seems to be lost on today’s youth. “I was at church this week, and I heard a little guy asking about a pillow pal. He said, ‘you can just click online and get one of those. Click and it shows up,’ ” Ewing says.

5 ways to get your budget ready for baby

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A woman holds her stomach at the last stages of her pregnancy in Bordeaux April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau Ideally, life-altering events and financial milestones don’t fall on the same day. Not the case for Laurie Belew, who closed on a house the same day she and her husband found out they were pregnant with their first child. Now, expecting their second, Belew is facing another round of twin financial hurdles.

“We’re not very good planners because my husband is quitting his job and going back to school in August. Whether we bought a house the first time or are starting school the second time, we like to do everything at once, apparently,” says Belew, a certified financial planner with Fox, Joss & Yankee, LLC.

How many kids are too many?

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Newborn quadruplets delivered by caesarean section lie in a cart at a hospital in Hefei, Anhui province July 28, 2010.  REUTERS/StringerCarl Friedrich and his wife were perfectly happy – and busy – running a wealth management practice with a bustling household of four daughters. Then a bouncing baby boy arrived.

“For us, that was the tipping point,” says Friedrich, the managing principal at Friedrich Wealth Management in Syosset, New York.  “Four kids was a do-able, and five kids…it’s a stretch.”

Financing fertility: The high cost of bringing home baby

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Bethe Halpern and her husband Ted tried to have a baby for nearly a year before turning to fertility treatments in hopes of conceiving.  Two doctors, five rounds of IVF and close to $50,000 later, they were exhausted – and still without a child. “We were held hostage for three years of treatments,” says Ted. “When do you find time to plan a vacation and live your life?”

Twins Lauren and Jack Halpern are shown with their dog Einstein in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/HandoutThe Halperns’ story ended happily – today they’re the parents of twins, Lauren and Jack – but it’s far from unique. More than 6 million women in the U.S. have difficulty getting or staying pregnant, the CDC reports, resulting in a tsunami of financial turmoil: with the average costs of IVF around $8,000 to $13,000 for a single cycle as well as doctor visits, fertility drugs and the price of related treatments and therapies – the cost of infertility is staggering.