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Plan and Save ~ Back to School Money Saving Tips

It’s that time of year again –Back to School Shopping! Here are strategies and ideas to make it less expensive and maybe even fun!

1. Before you shop, sort

  • Clothes: It’s amazing how quickly kids grow! Schedule specific time to go through closets and drawers to see what hidden treasurers you can find – for your child or someone else. Entice your child to trying on things so you can purge items that no longer work. IDEAS: Hand-me-down to a younger sibling. Organize a clothes swap with other parents. Sell at a consignment shop. Donate to a clothes closet or thrift store. As you sort, make a “need” list for shopping.
  • School Supplies: Get the list from your child’s school, so you’ll have he or she needs. Then “shop” supplies that are already in your house.  Junk drawers are usually full of things like highlighters, pencils, pens, calculators, and notebook paper. Make a game of it by sending the kids on a scavenger hunt; whoever finds the most items on the teacher’s list gets a prize.

2. With List in Hand…

Time to look for bargains! Grab a pair of scissors, sales flyers and newspaper circulars; cut out coupons and specific ads for things on your list. Checkout store websites, online savers sites and blogs for printable coupons and links to more discounts. What for back-to-school sales that coincide with end of season deals on some summer items. Minimize the number of stores by finding those that offer “price match” deals that honor advertised prices from other retailers. For items such as notebook paper, pens/pencils, folders back-to-school prices are the lowest you’ll find all year, so stock-up, and stored “extras” until you need them. Keep them out of sight of your kids so they’re not tempted to “over use” supplies.

3. Set Yourself up to Succeed!

The envelope system that helps adults manage monthly household expenses can also be used to keep back to school spending on budget. Discuss the items that each child needs to buy (e.g. clothes, school supplies, gear, etc.), then put the budgeted money in each child’s envelope. You know your kids and can gauge the amount of autonomy and oversight each needs. Teachable moments abound: Older children can experience making choices within their budget. Even young kids can understand with there’s no money cash in their envelope. Have a system for receipts for returns. Point out the product placement tricks that retailers use to entice impulse buys, so your kids gain skills to be savvy consumers.

4. Pace Yourself and Your Kids.

Very few of us can endure marathon shopping excursions. Categorize your shopping and decide which errands and decide which are appropriate for your kids to do with you and which will be more efficient to do alone. When kids are along watch for signs of shopping fatigue – low energy, waning patience, and short tempers can signal that it’s time for a break. Don’t be afraid to call it a day or take a break for snacks, water, or a meal. Team up with another parent or two to swap off childcare so parents can shop without kids.

Enjoy this season.  Your kids will be grown before you know it! Happy Back to School!

United Way NFCC Council on Accreditation