While you’re still enjoying the midsummer fun right now, you’ve probably seen the back-to-school exhibits in many stores. For the students in your life, starting shopping for new pens, notebooks and backpacks can be both exciting and overwhelming, but also quite expensive. Planning ahead can help you avoid overspending as you prepare for the upcoming school year. Read on for tips on stocking your students without wasting your budget.
Set a budget. Think about how much you spent last year and set a comfortable number to start with. Be sure to do some research to get average price points so you know your budget is realistic. Work with your children to review the supply list and help them understand that you may need to make choices and prioritize purchases to stay within that budget. This means they can have the fun pencil case on their eyes, but stick to the basics as they fill it up.
Start fundraising early. If possible, set aside your savings each week until the start of the school year to contribute to your back-to-school budget. This can help you avoid overusing credit cards or feeling distressed when making too many purchases at once. Depending on the age of your students, if they expect something beyond the basics, encourage them to contribute, or set aside their own savings to add non-essential items to the list.
Make an assessment. Did your children experience a major growth spurt this summer? Backpacks falling apart? If not, you may not need to buy as much as you think. Stock up on what you have before you go shopping. You may still have crayons or mostly unused notebooks from last school year that will come in handy for kids to start school this year. And unless you’ve grown a few inches taller, you may only need to add a few new items to your fall wardrobe instead of a complete shopping spree.
Sit tight for now. It may be tempting to rush to the store (or computer) as soon as school shopping lists are released, but it’s wise to wait until the year starts to see what’s really needed. Teachers put a lot of stuff on the list, but kids may not actually need everything, at least not right away. For example, if the listing shows four packs of crayons, can you start with one and purchase later if needed? This also applies to clothing. Chances are, kids can wear their summer clothes for a while longer, and that pause gives them a chance to decide what they really want or need (those expensive, “trendy” new jeans might not be what all their friends are actually wearing). ).
Include sales. The cost of books, notebooks, clothes, uniforms and other school supplies can be overwhelming! Look for discounts, look for coupons and be sure to compare options if possible. Some counties offer prepackaged supply kits with everything the kids will need—sometimes these are a good deal, sometimes not—so be sure to do your homework. Also, be sure to look at places like dollar stores and keep in mind that generics are often just as good as the big brands.
Think second hand. Explore used purchase or, if possible, rental options for higher-ticket items such as computers, scientific calculators, and even musical instruments. Contact your school district for information on rentals, and many retailers sell refurbished electronics that might be worth checking out. Many local parent groups also post items you can use to support your back-to-school needs, including clothing, supplies, and more.
The kids will be going back to school before we know it. Starting the year on the right foot financially can lay the foundation for a great year ahead.