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Understanding economics of school supplies

“With teens making budgeting and purchasing decisions alongside their parents, the act of school shopping helps build openness with money issues,” said Diana Don, director of financial education at Capital One.

According to Capital One’s second annual back-to-school supply survey, parents spent an average of $97 on school supplies this school year — down from $118 last year. Although teens planned to contribute an additional $45 to the overall budget, 44 percent of parents still felt pressure to spend in excess of the family’s back-to-school budget.

Luckily for parents, 77 percent of teens in the survey said they just bought the basic things they needed for school; however, 16 percent said they wanted to be trendsetters, having all the newest, coolest items.

Most in demand this year were frosted three-ring binders, gel roller pens, “The Osbournes” backpacks, neon “Dr. Grip” pens, jelly pens and sparkle pencils.

“Building the budget together offers an opportunity for parents to encourage their teen to contribute their own money to help fill the gap between the ‘I needs’ and the ‘I wants,’” said Dara Duguay, executive director of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a nonprofit group dedicated to raising financial literacy among young adults.

Nearly all teenagers in the survey (93 percent) said they learn about money management from their family at home. While more than half the teens surveyed have a savings account, only about one in nine have a checking account. Only a small number of teens indicated that they have ever taken a complete course in economics or money management.

“The average high-school graduate lacks basic skills in personal finance management, from managing a budget to balancing a checkbook,” said Duguay. “It is important for parents to encourage their teens to enroll in Personal Finance courses offered at school as well as supplement their teen’s curriculum with day-to-day lessons in saving, budgeting and spending, to ensure their financial success.”

In an effort to help teens and parents empower themselves with the knowledge they need to develop sound financial practices, Capital One offers consumer education resources. The company provides easy-to-follow fact sheets that address issues such as budgeting and saving. All materials are available free online at

For additional online resources, parents and teens can visit the Jump$tart Coalition’s Web site at

- Courtesy of ARA Content

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