MADISON, Wis. (8/7/09)--As the beginning of a new school year approaches, credit unions have an opportunity to teach youth about savings--especially when youth do their back-to-school shopping. Cherry Hedges, financial education director at Virginia CU in Richmond, Va., said students and parents should draw up back-to-school budgets when school finishes for the summer. Then they can determine how much they should spend on back-to-school expenses in the fall. The average amount spent on back-to-school shopping is roughly $548 per family (Fredericksburg.com July 25). Parents can either shop for back-to-school supplies alone, or take their children with to show them how to make smart buying decisions. Young children can be given a budget to buy lunch boxes and backpacks, Hedges said. Older children should learn the basics of budgeting and how to use a credit card, especially if they’re college-bound, Hedges said. Students should think through their college experiences and understand the costs--so they’re not shocked when they decide to pledge for a fraternity or sorority and have to pay dues, she said. Credit unions can help college-bound students with cash rewards credit cards. One Alexandria,Va.-based credit union is giving 5% cash back to Visa Platinum Cash Rewards cardholders through Sept. 30 when they shop at office supply, computer and electronics stores. Credit unions also can “adopt” classrooms or schools, providing youth with pencils, backpacks, quarter saver folders and other print materials. A $100 bill handout with information on how to save for financial goals also can be given to youth, said the Credit Union National Association, which offers credit unions “The Magic of Saving”-themed products for back to school (use the link). Conducting back-to-school contests, bringing the school mascot into the credit union to meet youth, and decorating the lobby also can help credit unions use a back-to-school theme.