Back to school is an exciting time for both you and your kids. There are new schools, new friends and new lessons to be learned.
There is also plenty of new back to school gear to buy. This can include clothes, books, school supplies lunchboxes and more.
It may be tempting to splurge on your kids, but with a little careful planning, you can get all your back to school needs taken care of, and still stay within your back to school budget.
1. Plan It Out
A common mistake that many parents make is going to the store without having planned a back to school budget. Before you start spending, get your kids’ school supply list and use it to determine your overall school shopping budget.
Once you have a budget, a little research can show you where to find the best prices, and help you determine the best strategy for taking advantage of sales, coupons, and special offers. Having a back to school budget also helps you to avoid impulse buys that can break your budget.
You don’t even have to run from store to store to get the best deal; many major retailers will match a competitor’s price, so if it’s cheaper at one store, you can bring proof and get the same price with less hassle.
2. Buy Online
Online shopping can be cheaper than buying at the store, and many companies like Amazon will offer free shipping for back to school. Or if you prefer a brick and mortar retailer, make your purchases in advance and pick them up at the store. Remember, the less time spent in the store means less time that your kids will want to say, “Mom, buy me that.”
3. Check Your Closets
Before you buy new, make sure you don’t already have it used. Many common items like pencils, pens, binders and notebooks are probably laying around your house. Do a thorough inventory of your drawers and closets before you start spending, and don’t be afraid to get creative. A plain binder or pencil box can easily be decorated with photos, stickers, and art supplies to make it into a personal item that is unique for your child.
One great way to save is to collaborate with friends and family. If you have friends whose kids need the same supplies as yours, consider pooling your money to buy in bulk.
If you have friends with kids that are different ages from yours, see if you can arrange a hand-me-down swap. One year’s gently used items can easily be passed down, and no one has to spend a dime.
5. Beware the Trends
Advertisers know that the easiest way to target your wallet or pocketbook is through your kids. If kids ask for trendy items that fall outside your budget, use it as an opportunity to teach them about the value of money. Tell them that they can get the item if they save their money or do extra chores.
Either they’ll take your challenge seriously, or they’ll forget about the item when the trend changes.
6. Take a Holiday
Many states offer back to school sales tax holidays in late-July/early August. When you’re making large purchases, this can help you to save an average of 6% on all purchases. For more information, visit Consumerreports.org.
7. Plan for Next Year
When you’ve done your shopping, hold onto your budget and record all the lessons learned. They’re bound to come in handy next year.