Going Back to School Without Breaking the Bank

Back to school is the most wonderful time of year – for parents, at least. Although your kids may not be excited to be going back to school, one thing that can excite them is back to school shopping. This season can be the perfect time to restock all the must-have school supplies for your kids. However, if you’re not careful, you could end up overspending and start the school year in debt. It’s important to realize that your idea of what is necessary for back to school may be different from your child’s.

Let’s look at some ways to go back to school without breaking the bank.

What does your child really need?

If you ask your kid what back to school supplies they really need, their wish list could be endless. They may say a new cellphone, new laptop, new clothes and the list goes on. Sometimes, your child may really need something, such as a scientific calculator for math class. Other times, their requests are based on what they want and not what they need. To find out what your child really needs, it’s a good idea to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Contact their teachers and school to find out if they really do need a new tablet.

Have your kids give you a helping hand

When I was younger, I used to think my parents could just go to the ATM and withdraw money whenever they needed it. I didn’t realize that money doesn’t grow on trees (although wouldn’t life be so much easier if it did?).

Back to school season is the perfect time to show your children to be financially responsible by teaching them the value of a dollar. You can do that by handing them store flyers and a stack of monopoly money. Provide your kids with a back to school budget to work with. Reward them for being a smart shopper by letting them keep some of the money they’re able to save.

Go hunting for hidden treasure

Don’t you just hate it when you buy a head of lettuce and when you get home you find out you already have one rotting in the bottom of the fridge? Don’t let this happen to you. When you go grocery shopping, it helps to come prepared with a list and the same holds true when for back to school shopping.

Unless you want to end up with too many notebooks or pencils again this year, before you shop, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of what you already have. But don’t just take a mental inventory. Put pen to paper and write out a list of supplies you actually need. Luckily, most school supplies don’t have an expiry date, so it’s not the end of the world if you buy too many. However, if you’re on a strict budget, taking an inventory ahead of time can do you wonders in terms of staying on target.

Stay clear of the hype

The latest Avengers flick was a colossal success this past spring. As such, you’ll want to be prepared for a boatload of merchandise related to it. While there’s nothing wrong with getting your kid an Avengers lunch bag if their old lunch bag is worn out, getting them an Avengers lunch bag when their old lunch bag is perfectly fine can easily put you over budget.

By getting your child involved in the budgeting process, it will help them determine whether keeping up with the hype is worth it. They may have to make a tough choice between a necessity like pencils and an Avengers lunch bag, thus teaching them the true value of a dollar.

Buying in bulk the smart way

Bulk stores can be a great way to save money – when done right. Buying in bulk just for the sake of buying in bulk can be a recipe for disaster. You may be saving money on paper, but does your child really need a lifetime’s supply of paper? Instead, shop around and look for items that are on sale leading up to the first day of school.

But there are some instances when buying in bulk can make sense. For example, if you team up with another parent to buy school supplies in bulk, you can save money by splitting the school supplies. It’s a win-win situation (provided they pay you back).

Research online ahead of time

Back to school shopping isn’t just limited to brick and mortar stores. Before you head to the mall, it’s a good idea to shop online ahead of time. By doing that, you can make sure you’re getting a good deal on everything you’re buying. You may think it’s not worth the effort, but you’d be surprised how quickly the savings can add up. If your child’s back to school budget is $500, by shaving just 10 percent off the budget, you can save yourself $50. Not bad!

Even if you end up buying items in store, shopping online ahead of time can pay off. For instance, some brick and mortar retailers price match. By showing a retailer the flyer of its competitor with an item at a lower price, you may be able to get the item for the same price without driving halfway across town. Pretty good!

Consider having your kids contribute

If your child is old enough to work and they’re on your case for the latest gadgets, a far better lesson might be to ask him or her to contribute. If it doesn’t interfere with their studies, working a few hours a week can teach children to be financially responsible. Even if they aren’t old enough to work, ask them to contribute some of their savings, allowance or birthday money. Otherwise, have them earn by giving them tasks around the house. That way, they are a lot more likely to value the stuff that they buy and ask themselves important questions, such as “Is all this stuff really necessary?”

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