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Editorial: Area you ready for back to school?

What kind of grade would you earn at getting your children - and checkbook - ready for another year of school?

If you're "below average" or flunking, there's still time to brush up and improve.

Some recent news releases received offer tips and advice that are worth studying.

The first set of recommendations is from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans:

• Set a back-to-school shopping budget. It's easy to overspend on everything from clothing to supplies and overlook the cost of extracurricular activities. Whether it is football or debate club, you can count on extra expenses. The key is to take a realistic look at what your needs are and to stick to the budget you set.

• Teach school-age children about the back-to-school budget. This helps them learn what items cost and gives them ownership and involvement versus just hearing, "Because I said so." Bringing lunch to school a few times a week is just one way to teach an important lesson about how the small things add up.

• Explore creative ways to save on back-to-school items. Shop discount or second-hand stores, don't buy items you can use from last year, recycle items or create a game for comparison shopping to keep kids involved.

• Have a "money talk" with college-bound students. Discuss budget, banking and credit card offers. Also, set clear expectations and parameters that can help guide them along the right path as they enjoy their new financial freedom.

• Begin or revisit college funding plans. Start when children are young. Consider talking with grandparents about their interest in contributing. Work with a financial professional to discuss college funding options and always take the time to explore the multiple options available for financial aid.

Another good set of lessons is courtesy of Lori Mackey, an i-Parenting author, speaker and mother of two teens.

• Take inventory. Go through clothing and supplies, separating what stays and what goes. Make a list of needs, which you will buy, and wants, which will take a back seat for now.

• Make it fun. Go on a scavenger hunt around the house to find any leftover supplies from last year, then check those off your list and voila you just saved money. Practice this with clothing, shoes and accessories and you will be amazed on what you really don't need. Set a budget with your new list, use cash and don't forget your coupons.

• Have a plan. Limits should be set before you head out the door. It's fine to say I have $100 to spend this week, and help your child spend it wisely.

• Rewards. Ever wonder how one teacher can control 30 kids? Rewards! Kids love rewards, and kids love a challenge. Set up a reward system at home and allow your child to attain rewards for success.

• Spread it out. Children live in a world of instant, fast, got to have it now! Children do not know what delayed gratification means. Spread out the back-to-school purchases over several weeks or months if possible.

Acting on these tips should make the back-to-school experience less stressful, less costly and more fun.