Over the course of the summer, we’ve given you tips on how to organize summer fun for your kids on a budget, save money on barbecuing, save on energy, and more. But with the summer nearing its end, another financial hurdle might be rearing its ugly head if you’re a parent: back to school shopping. According to the National Retail Federation, we could see record breaking spending on back to school supplies, with parents expected to spend $696 on average per child on their school supplies list. For kids going into college, this estimate shoots up to $976. And the more kids you have, the more you spend!
If you’re living on a tight budget, this might be more than you can afford. But if you plan ahead, start gathering supplies early, and have the right tips in hand, you may be able to save a significant amount on your school supplies list. Here are seven ways to help you save.
Before you go out and start buying supplies, take a look through your home and see what you already have lying around. You might be surprised to how many supplies you have leftover from years past.
Go through drawers, bins, and closets, and start collecting everything you have. Put it in a bin and start sorting through it, making a list of everything you have. When you do head out to buy things on your school supplies list, bring this separate list of things you already have with you, so you don’t start needlessly doubling up on things.
The next step is to start sorting through the clothes in your kids’ closets and pull out the everything they’ve outgrown. These clothes should be donated or sold. Once all this has been done, you should have a better idea of what you need to buy, and you should hopefully be able to avoid buying things you don’t need.
If you have friends or neighbors with kids, coordinate with them and organize a supply swap before you do any shopping. This way, you might be able to get your hands on some free school supplies.
For example, you may have bought a bunch of notebooks the year before because they were on sale, but there’s no way your kids will go through all of them. At the same time, maybe one of your friends has a few extra packs of erasers they’d be comfortable trading for a notebook or two. This way, you turn your extra supplies into the things you actually need while helping out your friends and neighbors along the way!
Before going out to a big retailer with your school supplies list in hand, there are other places you can start your hunt for deals on supplies. Thrift stores and garage sales are a great place to find deals on things like clothes, backpacks, and sometimes even school supplies. So, start by looking for ads for local garage sales in the classified section or on Craigslist, and get to bargain hunting! You can also ask your family and friends to keep their eyes peeled for anything you might need if they happen to be at a garage sale.
Thrift stores are also a great place to find a deals on clothing, but remember to start this process early. If you leave it till the very end of the summer, the selection might be pretty thin with the first day of school so near. Try to get this shopping out of the way by mid July if possible.
While you might think that a consignment store is the same thing as a thrift store, there are a couple subtle but important distinctions. The most important one is that typically, clothing that goes through a consignment store is often more heavily vetted before it hits the shelves than what you would find at a thrift store. This means that you may not have to sift through as many duds before finally finding something you think your kids would like.
If there are any consignments stores in your area, see if they’re having any sales in the later parts of summer. Some of these stores may have seasonal sales, particularly when the back-to-school season starts.
There are a bunch of places you should look to before going to a big-name retailer when you’re going through your school supplies list, and the dollar store is one of them. You might be able to find some amazing deals on basic back to school supplies like pencils and notebooks, and even some classroom supplies like hand sanitizer and Kleenex. Keep checking back to your local dollar store throughout the summer so you don’t miss out on any great deals. After all, they won’t last forever, and things can go out of stock quickly.
When you’re in the midst of a hectic back to school shopping season, it’s easy to get caught up over the cost of a glue stick at one store versus another. You’re trying to save as much as you can, and every dollar counts. While it’s great to save on these smaller items, you have a finite amount of energy and time at your disposal and you want to make sure you’re using it effectively. With this in mind, your time and energy might be better used looking to save money on larger-ticket items, like tablets, laptops, or any other electronics your kids may need. Finding a great deal on a laptop that saves you $400 will help your budget out a lot more than saving a few dollars on a notebook, so focus on these larger items on your school supplies list first, and then you can worry about the cost of glue sticks.
While we’ve already spoken about a few places to look for clothes when you’re doing your back to school shopping, unless you’re able to find a really great deal, you might want to hold off on clothes shopping until a bit later into the school year.
While your kids may be clamoring for a new wardrobe heading into the school year, according to Consumer Reports, September is generally the best month to find deals on clothing. So instead of rushing out and buying your kids a whole new closet’s worth of clothing, you might want to buy them a new outfit for their first day back and then wait till later in September to do some more extensive shopping.
When you’re trying to spend your summer months relaxing in the sun and enjoying the nice weather, it’s easy to forget about your back to school supplies list until the summer is nearly over. However, this hectic time of year can creep in quicker than you might think, and next thing you know, you’re scrambling to get your kids ready for the beginning of the school year. That’s why it pays to be prepared. The best thing you can do if you want to save some money is to plan as far ahead of time as you can and start putting your school supplies list together early. This way, you can start taking advantage of sales throughout the entire summer.
We know this time of year can be stressful, but with some careful planning, vigilance, and the right tips in hand, you may be able to get through this time of year with your budget intact and your kids ready for the year.