Back to school can be an expensive time. Between clothes, shoes and other odds and ends, costs can add up quickly. This can cause family to miss important deadlines, like not being able to make a car payment. Plus, more and more schools are requiring an abundance of supplies, which can have a detrimental effect on the family budget. However, there are ways to minimize the cost. It will take a bit of planning, looking at some local ads and making sure you aren’t easily caught up in the draw to buy appealing things you don’t need.
Make a List and Stick to It
The easiest mistake people make while shopping for back to school items is not planning ahead. Planning ahead is as simple as creating a list. Lists work to reduce impulse buys, and can keep you focused on the task at hand. The easiest way to create lists is to gather all the kids supply lists, take a good look at wardrobes and examine what they currently have carefully. Create a list for each child; it should involve shoes, clothes, school supplies and other accessories.
Hint: Get the kids involved to help avoid struggles. Have doubles of each list, one for you, and one for each child, and allow them to help mark off items. It’s a great way to keep them involved while subtly avoiding their desire for things that aren’t on the list. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment to be a part of making sure they have everything they need for the school year. For older kids, give them a budget amount and let them help to figure out what’s in their budget and what isn’t. It will build those money management skills.
Raid Your Stash
While you work on your list, you can also look around the house to see what items you already have at home. This can include hand-me-downs still in good condition, office supplies you have stored up and even leftover school supplies from the year before. If the kids are worried about having the same stuff, encourage them to get crafty to design something new. For example, refresh last year’s binder with a new design. Pinterest is a great source of information for all sorts of DIY ideas, including how to make boring office supplies more interesting and exciting.
Hint: Don’t forget backpacks. Hand-me-downs can be revitalized into something personalized and fun.
Find the Sales
Sales are abundant during the back-to-school season. You can find good ones both before and after school starts. Look at weekly circulars, or online at your nearest school supply and clothing stores. In particular, check each ad for items you need, and make a list of places to go and what you’ll be getting there. Compare prices, and work to find the best for your budget.
Share the Costs on Bulk
Some of the best deals you can get for school supplies are things in multiples (or bulk). That can mean you end up with far more than you need. There are a few ways to handle this. Either keep them on hand for next school year, donate to kids who can’t afford back-to-school items at all, or throw a party.
- Host a Swap Party – A swap party is fairly simple. Send out some evites to parents of kids in your school. Have each person sign up to buy a specific item in bulk. The day of your party, swap people for items you need, and hopefully everyone will leave with what they need as well, or at least most of the necessary back-to-school items.
Avoid Name Brands
The minute someone puts a popular name on something, the instant the price rises. While it’s nice to fit in or be a part of the trends, it isn’t necessary. It’s important to talk with your kids about why they can’t always have the things they want, and depending on their age, show them by letting them choose what they buy. They’ll learn quickly that name brands swiftly deplete their cash stash.
Consignment and thrifts stores can take time to sift through, but often produce gems that you may not otherwise be able to afford. Check around these secondhand stores to see if you can check items off your list and find good brands at much better prices. You may be surprised how many of the items are in good condition. Craigslist can also be an excellent resource for barely used clothes, shoes and supplies. If you use Craigslist, follow a few safety guidelines when picking the items up.
Gather the kids and newspapers, or even head online. Check your favorite stores and clip/print some coupons to take with you on your shopping trip.
Back to school doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a little time, effort and planning, you’ll keep from breaking the bank.