Budgeting for Back to School

Where did the summer go? The first day of August rolls around and suddenly we find ourselves in “Back to School” mode. No doubt, parents are counting down the days until school begins and kids are wishing that summer would last forever.

It seems like we just got back from our summer vacation, but with that simple turn of the calendar, we start shifting gears from trying to keep the kids occupied to trying to get everything they need to start the school year off right. You wouldn’t think that a few pencils, rulers and crayons would break the bank, but when you really sit down to figure what is needed, it could be a significant investment. In addition to those basic school supplies, you may have to buy a new backpack, shoes, clothes and even electronics. This is where that happy feeling may start to get just a little less happy.

So, before those good vibes disappear completely, it is a good idea to come up with a plan of attack… and a budget. It may be tempting to just start buying those items that the stores so conveniently moved to the front to catch your attention, but without a plan you may be buying things that your child doesn’t really need. It may take a little extra time to make a list and determine a budget, but in the end your wallet will thank you. So, let’s get started.

First, find your child’s school online and download the back to school supply list for the grade that they are going into. Once you have the list, take a quick look around the house. You may find that you already have unused notebooks and pencils lying around. Sit down with your child and determine which items on the list are essentials. Do they really need a new back pack, or will last year’s suffice? Can you reuse that 3-ring binder you bought last year? Of course, nothing beats that fresh pack of crayons so make sure to include those items that will make your child feel special and prepared for that first day.


Once you have an accurate list, determine how much you want to spend and create a shopping checklist (tip: keep your list right on your smart phone so you can check off items as you get them). Be sure to check out sales flyers to see where you can find the best deals. When you go shopping keep your budget in mind. Your child may want the elaborate shiny pencil case that costs $12 when a simple $2.00 one will do the trick. This is where compromise, and a well thought out spending plan comes in handy!

Second, go into your child’s closet and take inventory of what they have and what they might need. This is a great time to weed out the clothes and shoes that they have outgrown. Set aside play clothes that show signs of wear and tear and those summer fashions that aren’t appropriate for school. Now, you should have a better idea of where to start! Every child wants to look their best on the first day of school so prepare to buy at least one special outfit. After that, make a list of what they need to get through the first few weeks. Remember, you don’t have to buy everything all at once. Start with the basics and be sure to check the clearance racks for good deals. Check out these ideas to save on back to school shopping and kids’ clothes .

Finally, take a look at those big ticket items. We all want our children to do well in school and be successful. Do they have the tools they need at home to keep up with today’s digital classroom? That doesn’t mean that you need a brand new, state of the art computer, but it may be worthwhile to make sure that your computer, laptop or smart phone is up to date. If you find that upgrades are needed, again check for back to school sales, or consider buying used. You may find a great deal on eBay or Facebook Marketplace.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t need everything all at once. Keep in mind that just because something is on the “suggested item” list, that does not mean they will need it right away. Once your child has attended school for a little while, they will have a better idea of what they really need to be successful. Make sure that they have the basics for the first day of school, but if you find they need a whole new wardrobe or a new computer, budget those purchases over a period of months. The key is to make a list and to stick to it.

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