7 Tips to Save on Back-To-School Shopping

While I hate to hear it, it really does feel like summer is over after the 4th of July. The rest of the month just zooms right by and when we flip our calendars to August, it seems to shout “back to school”, which sounds nothing like summer.

For a lot of parents, back to school marks the start of a 10-month series where someone else deals with the kids for the day, but for many others, there is some stress involved with this time of the year, because back to school means dishing out tons of cash on school supplies, new clothes and other school essentials.

The key to minimize that stress is to prepare. Here are 7 tips to prepare your budget for back-to-school shopping expenses.

Set a spending limit and stick to it. When you think about all of the things you need to purchase, tally up the amount you think it might cost you and set a limit that fits into your budget. Whatever you do, stick to this limit. School supplies and clothing are available to purchase ALL YEAR ROUND. There is no need to break your budget for items that can be purchased whenever.

When it comes to the budget/spending limit, get your kids involved. When they can fully understand the reasoning and importance behind your plan, the more cooperative they will be when you tell them you can’t buy something right this second.

Related: Budgeting for Back to School

Start saving now. The sooner you start putting money away to pay for all of the back-to-school expenses, the better off you will be when it comes time to actually start shopping. Whether you put away $10 a week or $100 a week, every penny counts.

Scope out your house. You might be amazed at how many school supplies you have lying around your house that can be used for this school year. Whether they be pens, pencils, crayons, markers or notebooks, chances are a lot of what you need could be right under your roof. And that’s not just limited classroom essentials. Apply this same idea to clothes. What is hiding in the back of your kids’ closets? You may have avoided going back there, but now may be the time to take that adventure.

Start early and spread it out. Get a head start on your shopping in July or even June. That way, you can get a little bit here and a little bit there and don’t have to fork over a huge sum of money to go toward supplies and clothes all at once…

…Or if you waited too long, keep waiting. School supplies and clothing stores will have sales going on once the back-to-school frenzy has simmered down a bit. In this case, procrastination may work in your favor. Before school starts, only buy the absolute essentials, and then take advantage of all the deals that come after.

Hit the dollar store. Sure Target and Wal-Mart are pretty much one-stop shops for everything you possibly need in life, whether for back to school or not, but the dollar store will have the basic necessities for a fraction of the price. Even if you don’t find everything you need there, spending $1 for at least a few items certainly beats spending more than double that somewhere else.

Shop one season at a time. When it comes to clothes shopping, it’s hard to not want to buy clothes for the beginning of September, when it still feels like summer, comfy fall clothes when the air is perfectly crisp and not frigid, and then more clothes to keep your kids warm in the winter. But, truth be told, it’s completely unnecessary to buy an entire wardrobe fit for three seasons. Instead, buy a couple brand new outfits that your kids can wear at the beginning of the year and then spread out your clothes purchases over the next few months. The kids may not like this idea, but if you carefully explain to them the reason behind doing this in a way that they can understand and relate to, it may be easier than you think.

Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale or you have a coupon. I once read a quote that said something like this, “If you buy a $100 pair of shoes for $50, you didn’t save $50, you just spent $50,” and that always stuck with me. Just because something is on sale or because you have a coupon, unless you really need it, don’t buy it. Retail marketing is so powerful these days, and stores know how to get you to buy things you don’t really need.

A perfect example, which is completely unrelated to school supplies, but proves my point – Buy Buy Baby pretty much always has a coupon for 20% off. I’ve only used it one time because I vowed not to buy anything until after our baby shower when I knew what we really needed. But, when they came out with a $100 off $500 coupon, I came really close to buying a $699 glider chair. That is $200 more than our crib… for a rocking chair. And I never would’ve even thought about buying that chair before. I practiced self-control and didn’t go through with the purchase. A week later, someone told me what $100 off $500 equals… 20% off… I know, duh! I felt totally tricked and even more math challenged than I already thought I was. But, this is a perfect example of how stores can trick you into buying things you wouldn’t normally buy. They’re clever!

Do you have any back-to-school savings tips? Let us know in the comments below!

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