While we are still enjoying mid-summer fun right now, you’ve likely already seen the back-to-school displays at many stores. It can be simultaneously exciting and overwhelming to start shopping for new pencils, notebooks and backpacks for the students in your life, yet it can also be quite pricey. Planning ahead can help you avoid overspending when preparing for the upcoming school year. Read on for tips to stock up your students without blowing your budget.
Set a budget.
Think about how much you spent last year, and establish a figure you are comfortable with to get started. Make sure to do some research to get average price points so you know your budget is realistic. Work with your kids to review the supply list, and help them understand that you may have to make choices and prioritize purchases to stay within that budget. This means they may be able to get the fun pencil bag they have their eye on but stick with the basics when filling it up.
Start setting aside funds early.
If you can, put away savings each week leading up to the start of the school year to contribute to your back-to-school budget. This can help avoid overusing credit cards or feeling strapped when shopping for so much at once. Depending on your students’ ages, if they anticipate wanting beyond the basics, encourage them to contribute or set aside their own savings to add non-essential items to the list.
Take an assessment.
Have your kids had a major growth spurt this summer? Is their backpack falling apart? If not, you may not need to buy as much as you think. Take stock of what you currently have before going shopping. You may still have packs of crayons or mostly unused notebooks from the last school year that will work great to get the kids started this year. And unless they’ve grown a few inches, you may only need to add a few new items to their fall wardrobe instead of a full-on shopping spree.
Sit tight for now.
It is tempting to immediately run to the store (or the computer) the minute the school shopping lists are released, yet it may be smart to wait until the year actually begins to see what is needed. Teachers put a lot of supplies on the list, but the kids may not actually need everything, at least not right away. For example, if the list indicates four packs of crayons, can you start with one and purchase more later if needed? This goes for clothing, too. Chances are, the kids can wear their summer clothing for a little while longer, and this pause gives them a chance to decide what they really want or need (those expensive, “trendy” new jeans may not be what all their friends are actually wearing).
Scope out the sales.
The cost of books, notebooks, clothes, uniforms and other school supplies can be overwhelming! Search for sales, look for coupons and be sure to comparison shop between options if you can. Some districts offer prepackaged supply kits with everything the kids will need – sometimes these are a good deal, and sometimes they aren’t – so make sure to do your homework. Also, don’t forget to check out places like dollar stores, and remember that generic items are often just as good as the big brand names.
For higher-ticket items like computers, scientific calculators or even musical instruments, explore options to purchase used or even rent if possible. Contact your school district for information about rentals, and many retailers sell refurbished electronics that may be worth checking out. Many local parents’ groups also post items that you can use to supplement your back-to-school needs, including clothes, supplies and more.
The kids will be headed back to school before we know it. Starting the year on the right foot financially can set the foundation for a great year ahead.