The end of summer marks back-to-school shopping time for parents. Those supplies, which can include clothes, backpacks, school supplies, and electronics, add up to big bucks. For most families, the back-to-school crunch is also a time to look closely at the budget. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to trim back the expenses so September can be a time of excitement about the new year.
Real Simple quoted financial expert Peter Dunn, who recommends planning as the first step. Gather those supply lists from your children’s schools. Then, review the calendar for the upcoming year and predict what they will need for activities, trips, and afterschool programs. Buy what you need when you need it — but if you spot a sale, grab the item if you know your child will use it eventually.
Create a plan based on the school’s required items and what you anticipate your child will need. Stick to the plan as much as possible, and always be on the lookout for sales. Keep quantity and function in mind. If your child will only use three pencils, don’t buy 30.
Also in Real Simple, Chrissy Pate recommends focusing on big-ticket items. You’ll often see good sales on small purchases, like pencils and paper, but computers, graphing calculators, and backpacks can vary in price. Comparison shop between a few different stores and add your name to the email lists of major retailers. Often, they will send out advance notice of deals or send special offers to preferred customers.
Remember to go generic whenever possible. Avoiding big brands can result in tangible savings. Don’t forget to use your own stock of stationary and office supplies to supplement what your child needs for school. You can even ask your children to look through what you have and choose what they like.
Parenting magazine recommends avoiding trends until the school year has begun. What’s popular in summer might not be trendy in fall, and your children may decide they want something different once they meet their new classmates. If you have to give in, hang on to those receipts and know the store’s return policy.
You can also trade up clothes with other moms whose kids are the same age. That will replenish your child’s closet without draining your bank account. If you have high-quality consignment or thrift shops in your area, consider it a fun trip with your children to buy “vintage” clothing instead of new pieces.
Let your children be your helper; give them a budget and let them choose their own back-to-school items. It will help keep you on track financially and let the kids feel involved in the back-to-school planning.
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