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.