It’s that time of year again… the words kids don’t want to hear, but the most magical words to parents: back to school!
Expenses for the new school year can be a financial strain on many parents, though; things can add up pretty quickly when you combine school fees, supplies, clothing, shoes, and electronics.
The average family spends several hundred dollars on back-to-school shopping—per child. Many families may not be prepared for upcoming expenses like lunch boxes, backpacks, pencils, pens, glue sticks, water bottles, and so on, but there are plenty of ways to keep the costs low.
Here are some tips to help you cover the expenses, without breaking the bank!
Take stock of supplies you already have
One of the best ways to save money on back-to-school shopping is to simply reuse whatever leftover school supplies you already have in your home from last year.
Check desk drawers, closets, or basement bins to see what school supplies you already have before jumping online or going to the store. You may be able to find notebooks, pens, pencils, binders, or folders that your child can use this year.
If your child’s backpack and lunch box from last year are still in good condition, there’s no need to buy new ones. Maybe they just need a good wash!
Also, figure out what clothing or uniforms still fit before you buy more. Talk to your child and see if they would like to wear them again.
Make a shopping list
If you have not received a supply list from your child’s school yet, contact the school or their teacher to find out what supplies you should expect to need.
Talk to your child and find out what’s important to them, then create a list of what school supplies and clothes are needed. Be sure to include things like pens, pencils, notebooks, highlighters, art supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, calculators, computers, clothes, shoes, and other school essentials.
Making a list will keep you focused to help reduce spending. Once you have a list, set a spending limit for your back-to-school shopping.
Set a spending limit
Set a specific dollar amount for your back-to-school budget, then stick to it! It’s important to sit down with your child as you budget and plan for the spending.
If you have an idea of the costs of each item on the shopping list, it’ll be easier to figure out how much you’ll need for the full list of supplies.
For many parents, the majority of back-to-school spending goes toward clothing and electronics. You can save a lot of money by shopping online!
If you use cash-back sites like Rakuten to purchase back-to-school clothes, you can save a decent amount and receive cash back on every purchase from a wide range of stores online, including Children’s Place, Target, and more.
Don’t forget you can save even more if you find coupon codes for back-to-school items or shop sales with rewards or discount gift cards.
Take advantage of sales
Don’t buy everything right before school starts, especially supplies like pens, pencils, and paper that you’ll likely need to buy more of throughout the year. Search for them later on when there are clearance sales galore!
August is generally a good time to buy all of your essential back-to-school supplies. For now, focus on buying the things your child needs right now.
Find stores that price match
Take particular advantage of retailers or stores like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Kohl’s that offer to match a competitor’s price after the purchase you made. This means if you buy back-to-school supplies from one of these retailers, and then find better deals on the same products elsewhere, the retailer will give you a refund on the price difference.
Or, if you purchased items from your favorite retailer, and later on their own prices of those items drop within a certain period of time, they will give you a refund on the difference.
You will, however, have to provide proof of purchase to get a price adjustment or a refund on the price difference, so be sure to save your receipts just in case!
You can use tools like Camelizer to find the best deals when you’re shopping online, and try apps like ShopSavvy if you’re shopping in person.
This goes for most products, but you don’t have to only buy pricey, name-brand clothes, shoes, and other school supplies for your kiddos.
If you want to save on back-to-school expenses, buy one or two name-brand items that your child really likes, and buy generic items for the other essentials from chain retail stores. They usually offer sales or great deals during the summer months on back-to-school supplies.
Shop at consignment and thrift stores
You can buy things at huge discounts like school bags, clothes, lunch boxes, and more at thrift stores and charity shops.
Alternatively, if your child’s school requires uniforms, you could see if other parents you know who have older children at the same school have uniforms they no longer need.
Do not buy everything at once
If you can help it, don’t buy everything right before the first day of school.
For instance, your child may not need new fall clothes right away (especially if the weather is still warm), and you can always get the fall clothes cheaper in the middle of September. Hold off on buying seasonal items like winter clothing in August.
Buy second hand books
You can make savings with school books by buying second hand books from your child’s school store, a local bookstore, or online stores. You can also swap your child’s old school books with other parents you know to save on back-to-school expenses.
Shop during tax-free holidays
Depending on the state you live in, shop on tax-free holidays to rack up those tax-free benefits! You can save a lot of money on high-dollar items like electronics without paying sales tax.
If you don’t have the money available for this year’s back-to-school supplies, save as much as you can to cover the upcoming expenses and use these tips so the process isn’t as daunting.
School supplies can really add up after a while, so be sure to keep a little money stashed away before the beginning of each school year, or school semester.
With these tips, you’ll earn an A+ in back-to-school shopping!