Although parents may be rejoicing about sending their kids back to school instead of having to pay for expensive childcare, they first have to get them geared up with school supplies and probably some new clothes too.
Unfortunately, these things don’t come cheap. The average back to school spending in 2016 was $488 and expected spending for 2017 back to school shopping is $501 according to survey and data analysis company Deloitte.
But, before you hit the stores to stock up on school supplies, here are some tips to help you be a money savvy shopper.
1. Take Stock of Current Supplies
It’s likely that you child brought home some extra school supplies at the end of last year. Instead of buying all new supplies again this year, and wasting money in the process, take stock of what you already have before hitting the stores.
Check closets, desks, and backpacks to see what you might be able to cross of the supply list provided by your school or teacher. You might even be able to combine some items too, like taking two partial sets of markers or crayons and bundling them together to come up with a complete set again.
Don’t forget to also go through your kids’ closets. Set aside time for them to try things on to see what fits and what doesn’t.
After you’ve done this, you’ll have a much better idea about what you need to buy.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Shop Used
If your child has had a growth spurt and is in need of a lot of new school clothes, get creative and don’t be afraid to shop used. Kids grow quickly, so it’s smart to buy used clothes as much as possible since they’ll likely outgrow them before they can wear them out.
Utilize hand-me-downs from older siblings, friends, or other relatives. Shop at garage sales and thrift stores. Then shop for new clothes to fill in any remaining gaps.
3. Create a Budget
The older your kids get, the more likely they’ll feel pressured to have the latest and greatest of everything, from school supplies to backpacks and brand name clothes.
Instead of denying them of all of these things, have them assist you in creating a budget. Explain to them that you can get some of these things, but not ALL of them. Setting limits and creating a budget will help them realize which things on their wish lists are most important.
It can be tempting to do your school supply shopping online from the convenience of your living room couch, but resist the urge if you really want to save. Often times school supplies are cheaper in-store than online. Plus, when you shop online, you may have to pay for shipping. Even if shipping is free, don’t be fooled. Some stores will sell the exact same things online for more money than they would in-store to help make up for that free shipping offer that you think is saving you money.
5. Buy in Bulk
Have you noticed that you inevitably run out of some school supplies every year? Maybe by Christmas, your child needs new markers or glue sticks. Instead of waiting to buy those later when they are no longer on sale, pick up an extra package now. Back to school prices are some of the lowest you’ll find on these items.
6. Use a Cash Budget
If money is tight and you know you’ll be tempted to over spend, try using a cash budget instead of taking your debit or credit cards. By using cash, you’ll be able to keep a better eye on your spending. Plus, when the cash is gone, it’s gone. There’s no way to spend more if you’ve run out of cash and your cards at home.
Back to school shopping will be here before you know it. Don’t let it sneak up on you and cause you to overspend or go into debt. The best way to save money is to plan ahead so you’re ready to hit the stores when the flyers come out.