Back to school on a budget
Kids may still be enjoying the warm weather and freedom of summer vacation, but when August rolls around parents start thinking about the dreaded back-to-school shopping trips for supplies and clothing. It can be a costly time of year that often puts a strain on family budgets.
While it’s impossible to avoid spending money on things your kids need for the upcoming school year, there are ways to help minimize the hit on your wallet.
Tips for budget-friendly back-to-school shopping:
- Hunt for hand-me-downs. You kids may not have an older sibling whose clothes they can wear, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on some great, gently used togs. After you’ve taken stock of your child’s closet and know what items they need for the fall, ask your friends and family members who have children a little older than yours if they have any of the items your child needs. They may be happy to give you a few pairs of jeans and a sweater or two. Winter jackets are particularly great to source this way, since they often don’t wear out, but can be costly to purchase new.
- Don’t buy all the clothes they need before school starts. It’s nice to have some new threads for the first day of school, but the best sales often hit after the first few weeks, so if you’re buying new clothes, hold off until you see the prices starting to drop. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the sales all year long. If you see deeply discounted clothes at the end of a season, buy a size up and save it for next year.
- Find secondhand name brands. As children get older, name brands tend to become more and more important to them. Try shopping at second hand or consignment stores for these items. They’ll be much more affordable than buying new.
- Buy extra school supplies. Paper, pencils, and other school supplies that your kids need all year long tend to be discounted in the weeks before school. If you’re able, stock up on these supplies so you don’t have to pay full price later in the year.
- Make a list. Some schools send kids home with a list of items they’ll need. If you don’t have a list like that, make one and stick to it. Impulse buying can quickly derail a back-to-school shopping trip.
- Budget for next year. If you’ve never done it before, keep track of everything you spend on back-to-school clothing and supplies this year so you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll be spending next year. That way you can set aside few dollars each week so you’ll have the money ready and waiting next September. Ask your bank to syphon a specific amount into a separate account (maybe $5 a week – or whatever you think you’ll need to reach your goal) so you don’t even have to think about it.
- Don’t assume you need everything. Just like you take stock of your children’s clothes, take stock of their school supplies. Have them clean out their drawers and knapsacks so you can determine if they still have 52 pencils or 11 erasers. If so, cross them off your list!
- Go easy on extra curricular activities. Try to stick with one activity per child. Not only will this make your weeknights a lot less hectic and give your kids the unstructured downtime they need, but it will also give your budget a break. Lessons and sports aren’t cheap when you factor in supplies and equipment.
If you find yourself in need of some expert advice as you start planning your back-to-school budget – or your household budget, for that matter – remember that we’re here to help. As a Foresters Financial™ member, you have access to Everyday Money, our toll-free financial helpline that connects you to an accredited counselor who can help answer questions about your personal financial matters. Visit MyForesters.com for more information.
414005G CAN/US (08/16)