Don't let back to school shopping ruin your fabulous summer! See how to prepare for school on a tight budget.
As August rolls around and summer ends, parents rejoice at the thought of school starting again. Then they groan as they remember the financial burden.
But back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be a headache or a drain on your finances. Here are some tips to help you prepare for school on a tight budget.
Smart Tips for Back to School Shopping
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Plan ahead (or wait)
Don’t save all your back-to-school shopping for July and August. Remember, school supplies go on clearance not long after school starts, so stock up for next year.
If you can wait an extra month or so, retailers will put summer clothes on clearance. Consider compromising with your kids and only buy one or two new outfits for the start of school and save the rest of your shopping for about a month in.
Buying clothes in the off-season will also save you a TON. If your kids’ sizes are predictable, buy ahead.
Give kids control
It’s never too early to teach financial responsibility. This may sound crazy if you like control, but give your kids cash to shop for their own school clothes. Teach them to shop the sales and how to stretch a dollar. You may be surprised at the outcome!
If your kids are under 8 years old, this may require more oversight, but once they are around 12 years old, they should be able to handle most of it on their own. Hand them an envelope of cash with a list of the items they should look for (including backpacks!).
This money should cover everything except actual school supplies (sorry, parents!). If they don’t get something, teach them about returns (or tough luck).
Save throughout the year
Add up the fees for the current start of the school year and divide by 12. Set up an automatic withdrawal to a separate account and save the money year round for back-to-school expenses. Fall will feel a lot less expensive if you already have most of the money set aside.
Recycle and reuse
Don’t feel like you have to buy new every year. Backpacks, winter coats, instruments, and sporting equipment all fall in this category.
Sift through the school supplies your kids bring home for summer and set aside the usable items. Keep everything in one place for the fall and make a list of what you have. Hopefully you will make your fall shopping cheaper and easier.
Pick and choose
As kids get older, the special occasions will happen more often. Either budget for school dances or offer to pay for one part (attire, pictures, tickets, etc.).
Kids are resourceful. They will figure out a way to fill in the gaps. Also, they don’t need all the keepsakes. Offer to pay for a letterman’s jacket, a class ring or a yearbook. Don’t buy all of them!
In our family, we handle this by having our kids responsible for these expenses with their salary allowance. We've set the tone over the years about spending money on experiences rather than things.
School starting doesn’t have to be a huge headache or a drain on your finances! Develop a predictable game plan with your kids, stick to your budget, and don’t forget your reusable stash. Then try to enjoy back-to-school shopping as much as your kids do.