Pretty soon the kids will be going back to school.
This will be my first year sending both kids to school and as I was looking over their supply list, and my heart started to beat a little faster at the number of items I needed to buy. I get the hives thinking about dropping $150 at Target for back-to-school shopping.
And that isn’t surprising since the average American family will spend $600 on back-to-school shopping. And while it seems like every store has awesome sales and bargains, it is easy go over budget if you don’t plan accordingly.
So here are my best saving tips to help you stay in budget and not break the bank when back-to-school shopping.
Tip #1: Recycle
I was shocked to find many of the items on my kid’s school supply list were already in the house. Especially things like scissors, pencil boxes, sharpeners, Kleenex, Ziplocs, etc. Also, I try to make backpacks and lunchboxes go for at least two or three years before replacing.
Tip #2: Shop Tax Free
Take advantage of the Missouri’s Tax Free Weekend. You will not pay tax on the following items.
- Clothing under $100
- School supplies under $50
- Computer software under $350
- Computers/computer equipment under $3,500
As a general rule, I only shop for items during the tax free weekend that are bargains or a big ticket item. I never pay full-price because I’m getting an eight-percent tax break.
Tip #3: Price Match
Walmart, Staples, Office Depot and Office Max all price match. I spend a little time on the weekend with the circulars and make a list of the “best bargains”. Then I go to one store with my circulars and list in hand. Or if you are tight on time, take advantage of the Amazon Back To School Deals and pay a little more, but get the convenience of having it delivered to your door.
Tip #4: Don’t Buy New Clothes Yet
First, its hot for the first couple of months of school.
Second, fashion is fickle – especially in the tween set. Wait to spend money on fall/winter clothes until the second month of school. Kids will have a better idea of the “in” styles and prices are lower because stores are moving inventory in anticipation for the holiday season.
Tip #5: Wait…If You Can
Two to three weeks after school starts, many stores will slash their prices on backpacks, lunchboxes, spiral notebooks, folders, etc. If the item isn’t needed during the first week of school, then wait and buy when it goes on clearance.
Tip #6: Embrace The Splurge
Starting a new school year is exciting. New teachers, new classmates, new schedule, and new subjects.
Don’t squelch the excitement by making every item “recycled” from home. I talk to my kiddos each year about an item they would love to have for school and get it for them. This year DS wants a new lunchbox and thermos set. He’ll get both of these things, but he won’t get a new backpack. It’s a compromise, but it is still special.
Tip #7: Remember There is More Than School Supplies
Remember, there are other expenses besides school supplies and clothes. Make sure to budget in school lunches, book fees, PTA fees, and organization fees in the first month of school.
Tip #8: Make a Final Budget and Stick To It
I find making a budget helps keep me (and my kiddos) spending in check. Using a school supply list and their desired “want” list helps to make a budget for each child. As part of the budgeting process, the kiddos get to make decisions about which items to splurge and which items to save on.
Tip #9: If the Budget is Too Big – Buy In Stages
There are occasions that after putting pen to paper, recycling as many items as possible, and shopping the sales and price matching, there is not enough to cover all the expenses.
When I find myself in this situation, I make a priority list. Some things may have to wait until next month – and that is okay. Have a discussion with the teacher and let them know the situation. Most likely the kiddos don’t need four notebooks at the start of the school, one may be sufficient.
What about you? What are some cost-cutting things you do to save money during back-t0-school? What are some of your black holes? Leave a comment – because someone may have a great idea for you.
Stephanie Pankewich says
I love any ideas to save when buying for 3 this year! I found some adorable things on Etsy, then am going to attempt to make my own, like the personalized clipboard DD wants. Amazon is another way to save (esp if you can use your swag to get supplies), like our 8 skinny black dry erase markers, much cheaper on Amazon. I personally have tons of storage room, so I buy a ton in Sept/Oct when items are rock bottom cheap (backpacks, pencils, scissors for 5 cents), then stick it all back. My kids just went thru the school supply closet today shopping for school and our list shrunk by 85%! Nothing like buying a box of crazyons for 10 cents instead of $1.25. You are so right about waiting, do it if you can, or buy in later months so in January you can also restock.
I agree. I keep the school supply list from our school for the next year (they list out all the grade levels needs). That way, I too buy when I see them at rock bottom prices. In elementary school, the supplies are pretty standard. I’m lucky too that my 7 year old daughter isn’t picky about clothes – at least not yet.
One more tip: don’t forget to stock up now for the middle of the year when supplies are running low. Every year around January, I get a note home from my boys teachers asking me to replenish their supplies. These items are often crayons, markers, erasers, and especially glue sticks and pencils. Trust me you will not find any of these at rock bottom prices mid year. Spending $4.00 on markers is down right painful. Last year I gave my boy’s teachers several boxes of pencils late in the year when supplies were drying up quickly, and notes begging for pencils were being sent home weekly. I know this was really appreciated, and I only spent pennies for them at the beginning of the school year.
Awesome tip. And you are so right about finding a good deal in the middles of the year.
You all beat me to the tip, but I can’t stress it enough. Stockpile is they key to groceries and it’s the key to school supplies. My 1st grader doesn’t need a protracter…yet. But I got one last year for a nickel. (OK, poor example. DH is a math teacher, so I’m trained to pick it up for that price anyway. But you get the point.) And I also “shopped” in the basement for crayons and glue last February when I got the teacher note.
I’ll also pass along an observation from kindergarten last year that I thought was awesome. DD had a classmate with a mid-winter birthday and in addition to birthday treats he brought each kid a party-favor-looking bag of crayons, pencils, and scissors. Maybe glue, not sure. They attend a school with a very mixed demographic, so there are some families who can buy $3 midyear crayons and some who can’t. I thought this was a FANTASTIC way for a family, who was able, to share school supplies with everyone, including those who would find it hard to resupply. I would hope that mom picked up all those crayons,etc. when they were a quarter (or less). What a gem!
My oldest starts high school this year. I pay my school fees online (Olathe Schools) and have found that my biggest surprise expense so far this year – the high school yearbook. It was $50!!! However, you have to get it for them. So, remember, as they get older, school fees get more expensive. Things like yearbooks, PE uniforms, activity passes, parking passes, really add up quick! Don’t forget to budget for these unavoidable items too.