It feels like summer just started, but here we are about to start school again. Some students have already made their way back to classrooms, and the rest will follow in the weeks ahead.
You might be relieved to get the kids back into a normal routine, but the back-to-school season can also be tough on parents. Shopping for the new year isn’t cheap. One school-supply study found that it cost $1,000 on average to send a kid back to school last year!
You aren’t alone in feeling daunted by that number. About 60 percent of parents in a survey said it was difficult to afford back to school shopping.
But have no fear. There are plenty of ways to cut down on the cost of school supplies and get the most bang for your buck. Here are 6 tips for back to school shopping:
- Shop at your house: You might not realize how many school supplies you already have around the house, especially if your kids were in school last year. Start a search party for supplies such as scissors, glue and pencils. If you have younger kids, turn the search into a game to make sure you cover every space. You can find more ideas on how to do a “supply sweep” here.
- Make a budget: Yes, we tell you to budget a lot. But it helps! If you’ve already combed your house for supplies and still need more, calculate exactly what you’re going to need and how much you can realistically spend. You can use a back-to-school budget calendar like this one to make sure you’ve thought of everything.
- Compare ads before you go out: Most major retailers have back-to-school deals – small supplies will cost just a few cents and large supplies may be substantially discounted. Compare those sales before you go shopping, so you know where the best prices are. You can also compare prices between the name brand and generic supplies.
- Try stores you wouldn’t normally think of: Everyone is going to rush to the big office supply stores and superstores BUT you can find great deals at dollar stores, wholesale clubs and even grocery stores. Check out big retailers, too, to find out if they have discounts for online purchases.
- Hold back on some items: One thing you’ll learn buying back-to-school supplies: they won’t all get used the first day. That mostly goes for clothing. There’s no flip that switches on the first day of school indicating your child needs a whole new wardrobe. You can spread out clothing purchases until the sales come along or shop consignment for good stuff at much lower prices. Money Crashers suggests buying one new outfit for the first day and waiting until September hits for better sales.
- College supplies deserve even more research: You might be tempted to overdo it on the supplies for a college student, or at least for a college freshman. But there will be a lot of items your young scholar may not need. Check out policies on small appliances, figure out what you already have in your home and don’t be afraid to purchase used items for some things. Textbooks especially are a huge drain on finances, so shop sites like Chegg or Amazon for used books that you can sell when you’re done.
Whether your child is starting kindergarten of college, you can get them all ready for a successful year of learning and growing on any budget. Here’s to a great new school year!