This time of year always seems to sneak up on us. One minute we’re enjoying the summer’s delights and the next minute we are looking at Back to School signs in all of the stores. Every year we ask, “When do kids go back to school,” and the answer is always, “before we know it.”
Buying everything you need to send your kids back to school can be costly and stressful. With a few tips and tricks, however, you can purchase school supplies without wrecking your wallet. Here are 15 ways to save money on back-to-school shopping.
1. Check Your Inventory
There is no need to buy what you already have. Odds are you have lots of supplies at home already, hiding in the most unlikely places. Take a look through drawers, in baskets, under couches, clean out last year’s backpacks to see what you have on hand.
Set these things aside and then compare what you have with what you will need to purchase. This is also a good time to look over your kids’ backpacks and take stock of their clothing and shoes. If things are really worn out and need to be replaced or your kid is growing out of everything, you can add them to the list.
2. Know What You Need
Going into the stores armed with a set list will keep you from impulse buys and purchasing things you don’t need. Most schools will provide a list of items your child will need for the school year, either online or sent out to you directly. If you don’t know where to find this list, you can contact your local school and they can make sure you know what you will need.
3. Set a Budget
Once you know everything you will need to purchase, it’s wise to do a bit of research as to how much everything can cost and set a budget. Pricing things out will give you an idea as to how much things will cost and you can create a budget around those costs.
Not putting together a budget can lead to overspending. For those of you who are more visual, having a budget template can help you see where your dollars are going.
4. Skip Designer Brands
From the time your kids ask, “When do we go back to school,” to the time you start shopping, they may have in mind a list of all the trendiest clothes and shoes they want to show off to their friends.
It can be tempting to buy your kids the latest and greatest of everything, but those designer labels can cost more than they are worth. Bigger names are often associated with a better product. That may be the case, but often the increased quality doesn’t match the increase in price.
Shopping around for different brands can save you lots of money. Often store brands offer a solid quality for a lower price. Or you can opt for a brand that is slightly less well-known but still offers a quality product that’s not quite as expensive as a top designer brand.
If your child really wants a few items on the pricier side, you can check with stores like Winners. These stores carry name-brand clothing and shoes for significantly reduced prices.
5. Know When Cheaper Isn’t Better
It can also be tempting to buy the cheapest of everything to save money. When you buy things that are made with poor quality materials, they won’t last as long. Things like clothing, shoes, and backpacks will see a lot of rough use throughout the year and will need to be built to last.
While you don’t need to buy the top of the line, you’ll still want to make sure what you have purchased won’t fall apart after a few months or even weeks of use. If you have to purchase a replacement before the year is over, you’ll end up spending more money than if you’d bought a well-made product in the first place.
6. Shop Clearance Sales
Most stores that carry school supplies will have great deals around the time kids go back to school. Collect flyers or follow the stores’ social media accounts for deals on school supplies. This is also true throughout the year. If you see a big clearance on things your kid will need in the future, you can snag it while the price is rock-bottom.
7. Buy In Bulk
For items like pens, pencils, notebooks, and paper, it may be a good idea to buy in bulk. You know you will need these items year after year and they never expire. When buying in bulk you can get things at a reduced cost.
If storage is an issue, you may want to avoid buying crates of paper and notebooks, but smaller items like pens and pencils can be stored with minimal space.
8. Spread it Out
Ultimately, there’s no need to buy everything your child needs in one shopping trip, or even before school starts. Depending on where you live, the weather is likely to still be warm when kids are going back to school. Things like winter coats, sweaters, and jeans can be purchased when the weather turns colder.
9. Use Money Saving Apps
Many stores like Walmart have apps that offer significant discounts to regular users. These apps can alert you about special offers and sales, so you can make your purchases when prices are at their lowest. Some apps will also offer rewards points that can be turned into discounts on purchases.
There are other apps whose sole purpose is to save you money. These can find discount codes or can get you money back on purchases.
10. Shop Discount Stores
While Big Box stores can offer one-stop shopping for most of your needs, dollar stores can be a great resource for school supplies like pencils and pens. They are also a great place for buying facial tissue and hand soap. What dollar stores offer changes seasonally, and you may be surprised at the things you can pick up for only a buck.
11. Organize a Supply Swap
After you’ve taken inventory of what you have at home, you may come across some things you don’t need anymore. This could also be true of your neighbors and friends who are also looking to save money. Take advantage of social media and neighborhood pages to advertise a supply swap.
You can set up a few tables in your yard for folks to bring in gently used items they don’t need. Then your friends and neighbors can come and take what they need.
This can be as big or small as you like. You can opt to have a potluck picnic for everyone to enjoy while they “shop” and socialize, or you can keep it strictly to swapping. The choice is yours.
12. Wait to Purchase Electronics
Where you can save the most is on big-ticket purchases like electronics. While the end of summer is a great time to purchase most school supplies, the best sales for electronics like laptops and Chromebooks are around Black Friday. If you can make do with what you have until those sales, you will end up saving a ton of money.
There are also websites that track prices so you know when prices are at their lowest. For sites like Camelcamelcamel, you can set up an account and choose which products you’d like to track.
13. Look for Promotions and Coupons
Around the time kids go back to school, many stores offer special promotions and coupons. You can find most of these online, but some are found in circulars and flyers. It could be worth picking up a newspaper so you don’t miss out on the best deals.
Staying on the lookout for deals throughout the year can also leave more room in your budget for school supplies. Groceries aren’t technically school supplies, but you’ll still need to buy food for lunchboxes and after-school snacks. Keeping a grocery budget can help you have wiggle room every month for school supplies and activities.
14. Visit the Thrift Store
Your local thrift stores are a wonderful resource for things like clothing and shoes. Many times, children’s clothing has plenty of wear left long after the original owner has grown out of them. You can find top name brands, clothing that is in like-new condition, and even things with tags still attached at a thrift store and pay a fraction of the cost of anything new.
15. Plan Ahead
One of the best things you can do to prepare for back to school shopping is to plan ahead. You know that every August you will need to shell out a significant sum on school supplies. When you put aside a little money each month in a separate account or in an envelope, it lessens the shock to your finances when you have to purchase everything your child needs.
Getting Back to School
Your kids may not be asking, “When can we go back to school,” but you’ll need to prepare whether they are ready or not. With these tips, you can get everything you need to send your child back to school without spending a fortune.
At Credito, we are committed to your financial health. Contact us and see how we can help you get through some financially difficult times.