Budgeting for the Back-to-School Season
by David Sung
Just a few short months ago, students and teachers emptied school grounds, leaving behind desolate parking lots and vacant halls for the promise of summer vacation. Soon, the halls will fill up and the parking lots will swarm with minivans and school buses that signal school is back in session. And for parents, that means another wave of financial obligations.
Also read: 6 Things Teachers Can Use for DIY Projects
The best way to conquer the back-to-school season is to plan ahead and not become distracted by the sales. If your state has a tax-free weekend for school supplies, it can be very easy to overspend to receive what are mostly perceived – not actual – savings. Before you head out to join the masses in a shopping frenzy, use this checklist to discover areas where you could really save money.
- Download or pick up a copy of your student’s supply list and do an inventory of what your student has from last year. If it’s in good condition, mark it off your list and move on to the next item.
- From that list, decide on what stores you need to visit for each item. Target and Wal-Mart draw a lot of traffic from back-to-school shoppers, but many of your items can also be purchased at smaller chains like Big Lots or Dollar Tree. Look at the weekly ads for each retailer you want to visit and compare prices and pick one or two stores. This will make your shopping trips more efficient at each store and take advantage of any price matching if the retailer offers it.
- Leave your kids at home. There’s a difference between what your child needs and what they want. Their eyes tend to be larger than their parent’s wallet. Try sitting down with them before you start shopping to discuss your budgeting strategy for buying new gear for the school year. During this time, you can talk to them about any preferences like their favorite colors or features they may want in a backpack.
- If you're shopping for clothes and shoes, again do another inventory. End-of-summer sales typically start mid-August and are a great time to pick up items that will look great layered, well into the fall. You also don’t need to buy a new wardrobe right away. You will want a new outfit for the first day of school, but try to hold off until after the first week to take advantage of more sales. This trip may require that your child come along, but stay firm and stick to your budget!
- Don't be afraid to shop outside of the box. Parenting.com recommends using Craigslist and hosting a back-to-school swap with other parents to find items to cross off your shopping list.
For even more tips on saving money on back to school shopping, read Six Tips to a Better Back-To-School Shopping Experience.
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