Tips for Back to School Savings
Summer may be in full swing, but fall will be here before you know it. That means back to school shopping is on its way. Have you budgeted for school supplies and new clothes yet? The average family will spend an estimated $673 on back to school expenses, according to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation. However, creating a strategic budget and planning ahead can help you keep your family's costs down. Here are a few simple tips to help you stick to your budget during this year's trip through the "back to school" aisles.
Make a list (or get one from the school) and stick to it. Just like having a list for grocery shopping can prevent buying items you don't need, starting your back to school shopping trip with a complete list of items your child needs for the upcoming school year will save you time and money. A related tip: Take inventory of what you already have. Once you have your shopping list, check off any items you already have around the house. Notebooks, pens and pencils, and scissors are examples of items you don't need to purchase every year. This tip also applies to clothing. Basics never go out of style, so you don't need to buy your child a whole new wardrobe every year. When you do need to get them new clothes, buy sizes they can grow into.
Shop Smart. Sometimes quality trumps price. One example: backpacks. Spending a bit more upfront to purchase a good backpack will save you money in the long run, because the higher-quality item will last for years, whereas a cheaper one may need to be replaced in a matter of months. Clothes and shoes are on the other end of the spectrum, however. Children outgrow clothing so fast it doesn't make sense to spend extra money on brand names.
Start looking for sales and coupons early. Going back to school shopping last minute is a sure-fire way to spend more than you need to. Start going through that pile of "junk mail" flyers you get every week for school supplies you'll need. Spreading out the shopping over several weeks not only makes it easier on your budget, but is a good way to make sure you buy as many items as you can while they're on sale, rather than getting everything in one giant trip and only buying a few discounted items.
Finally, use this opportunity to teach your kids about personal finance topics such as budgeting and price comparing. Give teens a set budget for their items, and then go through their list with them to separate the "wants" from the "needs" before shopping. Have younger children participate by decorating plain binders, folders and notebooks (which are cheaper than character-decorated items) to personalize them.