It seemed like just yesterday we were in the mad dash of end of the school year activities and now we’re filling our calendars with back to school nights and orientation. It’s time to start making lists for clothes, shoes, and school supplies to get those kiddos back to the grind – and do the back to school budgeting. Here are 5 money saving tips for back to school, to help a mom out.
If you can get the back to school supply list early in the summer, you can shop deals and start the back to school budgeting. But if you PCS late in the summer or aren’t sure exactly what the teacher will want, you may need to do some last-minute shopping. Last year, Target had back to school lists programmed onto the website so you could select everything and go. Amazon is always a great option for the hard-to-find things you need. And if your school has a PTO fundraiser where you can buy the whole list, do that and cross two things off of your list.
During the last week of school, when the kids bring home backpacks full of stuff, hopefully you took a few minutes to go through that. Keeping things like divider tabs, 3-ring binders, and empty composition books can go a long way in saving some money come back to school time. Even highlighters, pencils, and half-used glue sticks can be sent back to school the next year to be used in class. While teachers may want different things from third grade to fourth grade, the basics are still needed.
Buy in Bulk
If you’ve got more than one child or are the type that likes to keep the teachers well stocked in glue sticks, consider buying in bulk. There are some things – like notebooks, reams of paper, and pencils – that you can buy at box stores. You may also do a subscribe and save from Amazon and order glue sticks once every three months. (Hint: have them delivered directly to the school to save you time.)
If buying for more than one kid, see what things you can combine on from their lists to buy in bulk. Buy a large container of pencil cap erasers, and then divvy them up. Same with highlighters or tissue boxes.
Shop Sales Online
Each year there’s at least one weird thing on the supply list, but for the most part, you can plan on pencils (don’t skimp on these, get the good ones) and paper. So keep your eyes out for when these go on sale. Stock up then! Unless your child is a senior in high school, they’ll need them next year too.
Speaking of high school students, just like their clothes their school supplies get more expensive too. Definitely keep an eye out for refurbished or used graphing calculators or other high-tech supplies on Facebook Marketplace, Amazon, or any of your local stores. Sales are your friend, for clothes, for schools supplies, even for lunch items!
Save from Year to Year
“No, you do not need a new backpack this year,” is something you should practice saying. Backpacks, lunchboxes, and pencil boxes don’t always need to be replaced just because it’s a new school year. Planning to use them for a few years may offset the slightly higher price you pay for them, and can help in this year’s back to school budgeting conversations. They can also be passed down from child to child, or even bought used. Yes, it’s super cute to have your kid’s backpack monogrammed, but is it worth reworking or forgoing the back to school budget just to do that?
Don’t Buy Everything Now
School supplies certainly are needed for the first week of school, but a brand new wardrobe isn’t. This may be the area where you can cut the most spending. Over the past few years, we’ve spent those last few weeks of summer going through clothes. Does your child have enough for a week’s worth of school for those late summer/early months? A good pair of jeans and a sweatshirt too? Then they probably don’t need a whole new wardrobe – that they’re going to grow out of before the winter hits anyway.
Compromise and buy one new outfit for the first day of school, and then buy the other pieces as they need them or when they are on sale. You may be able to do the same thing with sneakers, especially if you’re going to be buying sport-specific shoes for cheerleading, basketball, or soccer. Kids don’t need a new pair of shoes to go back to school, they just need a pair of shoes – that fit – to run and play in.
Bottom line up front: Don’t spend more than you have on back to school. Yes, education is important, yes kids need school supplies and clothes, but they don’t need everything at once. Don’t go into debt for paper and pencils. Send what you can and then send in more later. Trust us, teaching your kids about back to school budgeting is a great life lesson.
Photo credits: Rebecca Alwine and Unsplash