School buses are making the rounds. Teachers are planning lessons. Your kids are heading back to school. It’s the start of an exciting new school year. Everything is going to be great!
Until you remember how much back to school shopping costs.
New clothes, more supplies, extra-curricular activities, school fees, food for lunches and snacks, and the list goes on… but last time you checked, there was no money tree in the backyard!
How do you stay on track with your money and pay for everything necessary for your child to go to school simultaneously, without going broke or losing your mind?
These 7 tips to save money in the school year will help you navigate the costs of school both at the beginning and throughout the whole year.
7 Tips to Save Money in the School Year
(1) Set a budget
How much money do you realistically have to spend on the new school year? Back to school shopping can be fun, but you don’t want to get in a bind where it is a struggle to pay for regular bills because you spent too much on school supplies.
Setting a specific amount to spend will help you be more thoughtful about how and what you purchase. Using cash often helps you stick to the amount you decided to spend and once it is gone, you are done shopping.
(2) Take inventory
Gather all of your old school supplies into one place. Can you continue to use some of the same items you already have? Make a list of the items you actually need and then go shopping.
Back to school is a great time to go through the closets to see what you can still use in order to save costs. If the clothing pieces are in good condition, consider selling them at local consignment store or online. You will be able to get rid of clothes you don’t need and help bring in some money to offset the cost of any new purchases.
(3) Shop the sales
Office supply stores, big box stores, and even drug stores all run great deals this time of year on school supplies. Look at the sale ads at home and make a list of everything you need to buy.
Once you have a list, make a store run for those specific items only and get out quickly so unintended items don’t jump into your cart.
Bear in mind that it might be worth it to head to a couple of stores to purchase everything, instead of shopping at only one store. Shopping the sales will show you if the deal at your favorite store is really the lowest one!
Do you really need name brands? If there are certain brands your child has to have, then compromise on how much you will spend or how many items you will purchase. You can save money by buying different brands for the rest of the items.
Can you wait on some clothes or supplies until the season is just about over, and then pick up what you need when prices are discounted further? Your money will stretch even more and you will have supplies on hand all year long.
(5) Stock up
Think about all the school supplies your family will use for the whole school year and purchase everything now so you save money by not running out to buy more notebooks in February. Late summer is when you will find supplies at their lowest price, so stock up!
Have a little extra money? Consider buying additional supplies and donating them to your classroom or someone who can’t afford them!
(6) Teach about money
It is up to you to start teaching your children about money, so why not start this year? It’s never too early to instill the valuable life skill of handling money well by saving, giving and spending wisely.
Talk to your kids about how much things cost and use cash as a visual way to emphasize the abstract concept of cost. Practice adding and subtracting with money.
If your kids are older, you can give them money and allow them to buy their own clothes. Or give them a set amount and let them plan out and pay for their own supplies.
Allowances should be tied to work, such as completed chores around the house. Help your young children save by using a clear jar where they can see the money building up. Walk them through the thought process of spending wisely.
(7) Plan Ahead and Save
Think ahead – what other expenses will show up throughout the school year? Tally up all the activities fees, sports, extra money for lunches/snacks, yearbooks, events, and field trips, etc. Divide the total by 9 months and add the new total into your monthly budget, along with 1/12th of the amount you just spent on back to school shopping to save for next year’s purchases.
Saving a small amount of money each month will allow you to have the money on hand when a purchase comes up and keeps you from scrambling to come up with a lot of cash all at once. If you are worried you will spend the money on something else, open up a new savings account just for school expenses.
While you are saving money towards next year’s back to school shopping, start putting some money aside each month to save for college expenses. Remember the earlier you start saving for college, the more money you will have to help your children afford school without any loans!
Planning out your back to school spending will help you make it through a potentially expensive time without going broke. If you are wondering how to best save for ongoing school expenses, check out my post 20 tips to pay cash for college that you need to know, which has great tips on paying for school expenses of any kind.