When you see “Back to School” you know summer is winding down. Retailers know kids and teens will need (want) new supplies and clothes for the next school year and have been preparing for months! They may have even created a convenient “back to school” section at the front of the store for you in addition to bombarding you with email ads to ensure you don’t miss it. It’s possible you have received a “wish list” from their new teacher for supplies they will need in the classroom. Covering all of these school expenses at once can be a little overwhelming and put a pinch on your finances. So, we’ve created seven steps on how to save money and still get what you need to send your kids off to school.
1- Make a list of supplies needed. Do a quick inventory of what you have left from last year that you may have tucked in a drawer somewhere. Pull out last year’s crayons, scissors, computer, calculator, backpack, dorm items, etc. to see if they can make it another year. Ask friends and neighbors about borrowing sports equipment and band instruments or check with the school about loaners.
2- Make a list of clothing/shoes needed. Kids do grow quickly but there may be a few things they can still wear from last year. Have them try on their clothes and separate them into “wear” and “can’t wear”. Go through the “can’t wear” pile and see if you can consign them, sell them online, or yard sale them. Next, review the “wear” pile and make a note of a few new items to purchase to freshen their wardrobes!
3- Review the teacher wish list. We all know teachers don’t make enough money to stock their classrooms with the little things the kids use like hand sanitizer and Kleenex. However, if you’re tight on money, put these on hold for now and pick up one or two items later in the school year as they fit into your budget.
4- Finalize your list. Mark off any items you were able to pull together, borrow, or reuse from last year. Hopefully it’s a little shorter now than when you started. Next, review the list again and prioritize what your kids need most to least. By creating a list and sticking to it, you’re less likely to make impulse purchases.
5- Review your budget. How much extra money do you have available this month? Anything on the list you can put off buying until next month? Check on what they need day one versus a month from now and spread out your purchases.
6- Talk to your kids. Before you start shopping, explain to your kids how money and budgeting work. This will help them build an important personal finance skill and may save you from a not-so-fun discussion at the store. You can include them in the shopping experience by giving them the list and a calculator and letting them add up the costs as you shop.
7- Get ready to shop! Gather your final list, your budget, and your willpower to say “no.” You’re ready to start looking for sales, coupons and deals. Maximize your money by asking about student and loyalty discounts. Shop for gently used items at resale shops and online. Find out if your state offers a tax free weekend for school supplies.