To many, the holidays are a time of big spending and blown budgets. But to millions of households with children, mine included, back to school shopping can also wreak havoc on our finances.
Between the trendy clothes, new shoes, and endless amount of school supplies, it is not difficult to put a noticeably big dent in our savings.
As I contemplated the many needs of my children in the weeks before school starts, I wondered if there isn’t a way to get through it without spending a fortune.
Good news! It really is possible to get everything our children need for a successful school year without breaking the bank.
Yes, it takes discipline and perseverance. You may even need to leave the kids at home if they are overly persistent. But with a little planning, you can stick to an acceptable budget and still send the kids back to school with everything they need and even some things they actually want.
Here are some valuable tips to follow that can help you save you money, you’re your sanity, during the pricey back to school shopping season:
- Before replenishing fall and winter clothes, take stock of what your kids already have. Do their jeans still fit? Is that jacket good for one more year? Also take advantage of hand-me-downs from an older sibling or cousin. My daughter has benefitted from many unworn clothes her older sister has handed down. Whatever is not yet worn is new again!
- Yes, those adorable fall clothes are on display and your teen just has to have the newest sweater vest, but summer weather doesn’t stop for school. You can shop summer sales for back to school clothes, which kids can wear for a few more weeks. This is the one time I don’t mind that my kids like wearing short sleeves and camis year round.
- Watch for office supply store coupons. You may have to wait until right before classes start, but if you hit it right, this could mean big savings.
- Don’t veer from the school supply list. This also means stick to the cheaper, plain folders rather than the cool, trendy ones. Don’t grab the first spiral notebook you see. Be aware of prices, which can vary greatly, and shop around when out at different stores. This may be easier to do if the kids stay home.
- Check with the kids to see if they brought home leftover supplies from the prior school year. This includes folders that are in decent condition and barely-used spiral notebooks, in addition to crayons, markers, pens and pencils. I always make a point of digging through last year’s backpack and usually come up with a bounty.
- Plan to shop during tax holidays, which many states offer. This can be used for school-related shopping, such as clothes and shoes, in addition to school supplies. Last year, I was able to combine tax free shopping with valuable clothes coupons. You’ll be amazed at the savings!
- Price shop online before heading to the stores. Sometimes it pays to hit more than one store for school supplies. Make sure you’re getting the best deal possible and the most for your money.
- I tend to want to rush through school supply shopping. After all, pencils and paper are not complex purchases. However, it’s best to take your time and look around for the best deals. If you’re harried and hurried, the tendency is to grab the first binder you see. This is where mistakes happen. You pick up a 1.50 inch binder when you need a 1.75 inch size. Or the loose leaf paper is college ruled when your child needs wide ruled. Who said back to school shopping was easy?
Back to school shopping is not a science, but it could be. For those parents who plan ahead, shop around and do their homework, there are big savings that can be had.
And we all know too well how fast the holidays are upon us after the kids head back to school. By saving on back to school shopping, you can leave money in the coffer for Christmas gifts, including that trendy new sweater vest your child has been eyeing since August.
2 Responses to “Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget”
Around here (Portland, OR), the school supplies all go into a communal supply so nothing ever comes home again. It’s good in that you don’t have to worry about your kid losing her stuff or forgetting necessary supplies at home the day he needs them, but it also forces you to buy new crayons, markers, pens, etc., even if your kid wouldnt have used the supplies up completely.
If we stay qt our current school, that’s the system they use through 8th grade. :-/
Buy gift cards online at a discount for places you know ahead of time you’ll be shopping at. This is another 6-10% savings right off the top.