It’s that time of year again…back to school budgeting season.
I know that families with kids can very well drop hundreds of dollars on sending their children back to school with the latest gear. That’s just not me. My budget is always pretty moderate since I know there are tons of other expenses that I’ll need to be prepared for over the course of the year.
Below are some of my best back to school shopping tips that help me save big every year.
Start At Home
Before you even head out to the store, check your home for stray supplies lying around. I’m sure you’ll find pencils, pens and paper to say the least. If you overbought the previous year, you may have extra supplies lying around just ready to use.
We usually have pencils around the house though along with paper and a few binders. Back when I was in school, our supply budget got smaller and smaller in my household as we got older so I would successfully raid the house each year for paper, reusable folders that were still in good shape.
When it comes to backpacks, it’s best to buy one that’s made to last so it can be used for a few years instead of having to get a new one each year. My son will be using the same backpack this year as well, seeing as how I used the same backpack all throughout high school and college.
Locate Back-to-School Giveaways
Most cities have back-to-school events where volunteers and organizations grill out and give away basic school supplies and backpacks to the neighborhood. Events like these are open to anyone and everyone and you don’t need an ID or anything to receive the free supplies and other donations.
I went to one of these events last year and my little town really outdid themselves. In addition to handing out school supplies, household toiletries, and free barbecue, they also had a giant food truck that handed out meat, boxes of cheese, bread and other items along with a barber who gave all the kids free haircuts. I had so much provolone cheese in the freezer I was able to use it make sandwiches for lunches through the winter.
To find out if your area offers any of these events, search online, look for fliers or ask town officials or your local library. It’s still probably not too late!
Avoid Name Brands If It’s Not In Your Budget
I mean it on this one. When you’re shopping for school clothes for kids, your main focus should be the style and quality of the clothes along with the price. If an outfit happens to be a name brand then that’s fine, but if it’s just a generic Target brand that’s alright too.
With clothes, I tend to try to get enough to cover fall, winter and early spring before I have to go shopping again. That requires a lot of strategizing. You can save here by being open to receiving hand-me-downs and buying gently used clothing.
It’s super hot where I live during the month of August so my newest strategy is to send my son back to school in some of his summer short outfits, then take advantage of labor day sales in September if I need to buy anything new.
We will be stopping by a new Goodwill to check out their kids’ clothing this year before going to a regular retail store and I accept hand-me-downs year-round so I have jeans in our storage unit that he can wear three years from now. If you don’t have any good thrift stores near you, you can shop online with ThredUp.
ThredUp is an online consignment shop that sells gently-used clothing for men, women, and kids. You can even sell your clothes to ThredUp and they will pay you, or you can enjoy their low clothing prices for you and your family.
Purchase a back-to-school outfit for your child on me if you are interested in checking out their clothing. If you click on my referral link, you’ll get $10 to spend while I get $10 to spend as well 🙂
Use Coupons This Time
If you dislike couponing, this is the one time where you should push yourself to make an effort because it could save you a good amount of money. I love Target coupons because you can pull them up on your phone very easily and this year they have dollar store prices for many different types of school supplies.
Check the circulars that come in the mail to get leads on where the best deals will be and cut out a few coupons to use. You can also take the more modern route and use an app to help you compare coupons and deals and save.
I’ve heard really great recommendations for apps like Ibotta and Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates). You only have to do this once a year so might as well make this extra effort to rack up some savings.
Start Setting Money Aside Early
Setting money aside during the summer is a must if you have more than one child, but it’s a great idea for all parents. Instead of having to drain your funds in August right before school starts, it’s better to have money set aside that you can use.
I started saving $30 here and there for school clothes in June and worked the cost of supplies into my budget after I saw the supply list.
You can start budgeting for back-to-school expenses as early as you want and set up automatic transfers to build your savings each month.
Shop during the Seasonal Rush
Sometimes it’s best to avoid the seasonal rush, but with school supplies and clothes I’d say jump right into fire and crowds of shoppers. Retailers offer amazing deals on items during this season and if you shop too early or too late, you may miss out on those deals.
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