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Summer may be in full swing, but the new school year will be here before you know it. If shopping for new school supplies has you dreading the end of summer vacation as much as your kids do, you’re not alone. Last year, families spent an average of nearly $700 buying new clothes, supplies, and other items to get their kids ready for school. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. You can get your kids set for that first day of school without breaking the bank. Here are some great tips to take the sticker shock out of getting your kids back to school.
1. Make a Plan and Get Organized
Before you make a single back-to-school purchase, make sure you’re organized. The more deliberate you are with purchasing your school supplies, the better chance you have of keeping costs under control. You should check with the schools and teachers to find out exactly what school supplies your kids will need, and add those to your list. Then, take stock of your current school supplies on hand and cross any items you already have off your purchase list. Don’t forget to include items your kids will need for extracurricular events, such as sports or clubs. Finally, take a good look inside your kids’ closets and dressers (and under their beds, most likely!), and determine exactly what your new clothing budget will be for each kid.
2. Have a Shopping Strategy
Even if you’re armed with a list, you can end up spending more than you anticipated if you buy items at random stores. Instead, attempt to plot out exactly where you’re going to shop for key items. Search for deals in Sunday newspaper inserts, which will often highlight sales at nearby stores. If there are great thrift stores in your area, plan to check those out as well; they’ll often have great deals on things such as backpacks, clothes, and other items on your list. You should also search online using apps such as Groupon and Ibotta to see if you can find highly discounted back-to-school items. Don’t forget to look at the online shopping giants; you may be able to find many of the items you need at great prices on Amazon or another trusted website.
3. Reap the Rewards and Clip Coupons
Part of your shopping strategy should be to take advantage of any rewards programs that stores and online sites offer. Many nationwide chain stores you might already shop at have rewards programs that offer discounts of 5-10% for members. If the stores you plan to use have these programs, make sure you’re signed up before you head to the cash register and you’ll see some substantial savings. Additionally, within those Sunday newspaper inserts, make sure you grab any coupons for back-to-school items and clip them. You may also want to check the internet and see if there are any online coupons to scan or use at the store. Finally, signing up for an online service such as Amazon Prime can yield big savings in terms of discounted back-to-school items and free, fast shipping.
4. Stagger the Clothing Purchases
Clothing can often be the biggest expenditure you’ll have when back-to-school shopping. One way to mitigate this cost is to only buy one or two new outfits at the start of the school year and then buy an additional outfit or two each month for your kids as the school year goes on. According to Consumer Reports, many clothing stores have big discounts after that August back-to-school sales rush. Additionally, since kids are doing most of their growth in their elementary school years, staggering the clothing purchases throughout the year will ensure that your kids don’t outgrow those expensive new clothes too soon!
5. Involve Your Kids
If you don’t want to spend the first week of school returning items or listening to your kids’ complaints about your shopping choices, you should involve them right from the start. Have them help with making the budget and school supply lists, as well as with the search for the best places to buy their items. Consider giving your kids a modest budget to choose some school clothes and supplies for themselves. Making your kids stakeholders in the back-to-school shopping process will help ensure they’re satisfied with the outcome; additionally, they’ll learn a valuable lesson about money and budgeting.
Back-to-school shopping can be challenging, but you can make it fun and less stressful for the entire family if you put these tips into practice. So, as the summer winds down, consider the ideas discussed here, and keep your budget and sanity intact as your family gets ready for the new school year!