Preparing For Back to School on a Budget

Summer is halfway over, and now is the time to begin planning and making purchases towards your child’s school supply list. It is important, when planning your budget, to prioritize your shopping list by what is needed, and determine with your child or their teacher the items that you can hold off on purchasing until after the first day of school.

Start Preparing Early

After you create your list of needed school supplies, decide how much you can afford to spend overall and compare it to what the full lists of supplies will actually cost. Be as specific as possible and don’t leave anything out. It takes a large amount of stress off of your shoulders if you can pre-plan for these purchases to insure that your tight budget is still a workable budget. Start looking for the best deals now. Keep your eyes and ears open for those great back-to-school deals.

Involve the Kids

This is a great way to teach your children about budgeting, preparation, deal hunting, and learning the difference between items the want and items they need. Younger kids can help cut out coupons while older children can help with research on finding the best sales and comparing item costs. This is a great opportunity to start helping your children develop great money management habits. Before you shop:

– Set a realistic budget with your children.
– Encourage your children to follow the budget while stressing to them that purchasing an expensive item that they may want might mean that they will be sacrificing a less expensive item that they may need. Welcome them to contribute their own money to fill the gap between what they “want” and what they “need.”
– Welcome your kids working with you to find ways to cut costs and manage cash flow like clipping coupons, searching for sales, and purchasing supplies at the beginning of each semester.
– Teach your kids the importance of comparison shopping

Compromise When Necessary

Kids sometimes make it hard to cut corners as they want to have the same cool brands that their friends have. That’s fine; it is our role as the parent to teach them how to prioritize between what is needed and what is wanted. Explain to them that by choosing to purchase a more expensive item that they will have no other choice than to go cheap on another item. Give them some time to think over their choices. If they have their own money, welcome the idea of them partially contributing to the purchase that they want.

Get Creative When Shopping For School Clothes

Purchasing school clothes seems to take the biggest chunk out of the overall back to school budget. But who says that everything you purchase has to be brand new? Trade clothes with other families or hit your local thrift stores and garage sales for great savings. If your child attends a school that requires uniforms, check with the school’s administration to see if they have a trading or discount program. If buying online, place your order with friends to make sure that you receive free shipping on your order.

Seek Out the Sales

Each year the back-to-school sales start earlier and earlier. Before you toss those weekly ads in the trash, scan them for sales on clothing and school supplies. Keep an eye out for online coupons, mailed promotions, television commercials, and radio commercials. Some items are worth purchasing on the spot while other items may be a better purchase a couple of weeks or months down the line. For more expensive items like electronics, it is better to check out price comparisons rather than buying the first new computer or tablet that you may see.

Back to school shopping can be a fun and educational experience for the entire family. Keep notes on what you discover each year, where the best thrift stores are, what time each year the best deals normally come out, and how often your favorite stores keep their shelves stocked with on sale items. This will definitely come in handy. Also use this time as a teachable moment to not only show your child how to save, but have them assist you on the decision to how to use the money that was saved.

If you do this each year, you will begin seeing the positive affects it has on your child and their ability to scope out the best deals. By graduation, you would have effectively prepared them for the real world.