Planning matters

Back-to-School Shopping Budgeting Tips

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down and the kids are preparing to go back to school already! If you have kids, you may have already heard the requests for specific back-to-school supplies and clothing necessities.

As my kids are letting me know all the things they “need” before school starts, the calculator in my head is crunching the numbers and saying “ouch.” While it’s inevitable that I will need to spend money for this, I’ve made some changes over the past few years on how I do back-to-school shopping to help ease the impact on our family budget.

School Clothes

I stopped buying everything at once. I admit it – I would get caught up in all the cute clothes and would “stock up” for the year because they were on sale. However, after the school year got started, I came to find out my kids had their “favorites” and would only want to wear a few of the clothing pieces out of the bundles I had bought them. The rest of the items sat in drawers waiting for the kids to outgrow them or were considered no longer fashionably acceptable within a few months of being purchased.

I’ve taken a different approach on how I shop for school clothes now. Instead of stocking up for the whole school year, I take advantage of the back-to-school sales and have the kids pick out just a few new pieces of clothing to start out with. During the school year I keep an eye out for big sales and buy more clothing as the kids need them. Spreading it out over the school year has helped our budget, avoided wasting money and the kids feel good about having some new clothes mid-year versus everything at the beginning. 

School Supplies

Generally, there are good sales on school supplies in August and the first part of September. Some stores have additional coupons on their apps and/or websites as well. However, even with the low prices, I found that it’s beneficial to make a list of what we need and compare prices. Also, when comparing prices between stores, I consider if the stores offer points or rewards toward future purchases and/or price match. But before going out to buy, I’ve learned to take inventory to see if we have unused supplies from the previous school years that can be used.

Since the kids usually need to restock on essentials like notebooks and paper during the school year, I buy some extras during the back-to-school sales and put them away until needed so I avoid paying full price later during the school year.  

Teaching Opportunities

I’ve learned to make back-to-school shopping a teaching opportunity for my kids. I let them know what our budget is and have them help in locating the sales and coupons. This has enabled them to understand how to shop within a budget and why sometimes the answer is “no” to an item they ask for. 

Another teaching opportunity I’ve utilized is a high school checking account with a debit card for my oldest child. This has given her the ability to start learning how to budget and track debit card expenses, without the concern of overdraft charges (while she is under 18 years old). I found this has taught her how quickly those small debits add up and has also helped her learn how to plan and budget for upcoming purchases, including debits that are done automatically every month. This year I plan on funding her checking account for some of her back-to-school expenses, working with her to create a budget for what she needs, and then letting her do the shopping. As she continues to mature, I plan on slowly increasing the expenditures she will pay for out of her checking account with the hope that in the next few years she will successfully transition into being able to manage a bank account responsibly.

Written By Lana Alvarez