Going back to school can mean more than pencils and books and parents doing the happy dance as the bus pulls away from the driveway--it can also cost a small fortune for many of us. Throw new gym shoes and the cost of a planner into the already rising cost of school supplies and you’re going to feel this month's squeeze in your pocket book. If you have more than one child returning to school, you’re likely feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of buying everything they need for success this year.
Gone are the days when pencils and books were enough. These days students are expected to bring tech such as headphones for listening stations and supplies for the classroom like whiteboard markers and tissue. In order to prepare your children without emptying your wallet, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when you are doing your back-to-school shopping.
Spread It Out
There is no need to purchase everything on the list immediately. Many school costs are incurred throughout the year, like the drama fee or hot lunch program. Yes, gym shoes might be essential for safety reasons, but do students really need 48 sharpened pencils on Day 1? Speak to the homeroom teacher, if you must, but make some decisions about what is really necessary for the first day. I think you’ll find your kids need much less than you think.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute for Must-Haves
If you leave your shopping too late you are risking major problems. First, the things you do need right away might be all gone, or only the higher priced items may be left. You don’t want to have to buy brand name supplies unless they are your only option. How many times have you missed out on some great specials by leaving your shopping until the last minute?
Share the Wealth
Shop with a friend. When the list calls for four yellow highlighters but they are only sold in packs of eight, you can go in with a friend and you can both save. Can you save on a particular item if you buy two or more? Organize a shopping night with other parents in the same boat and you'll start to see the savings. You may end up spending what you save on coffee with your new friends, but it's a start.
Read the Flyers
If you take the time to browse back-to-school flyers, you may learn of some really great deals that will make your shopping a little easier on the budget. Don’t worry if you don’t have your list yet--there are some things that will make the list year after year. Grab some paper and pencils and tuck them away for when the time comes. Your child does not need snow boots in September, so put those at the bottom of the list and find some super sales on the things you need right away.
There are some things that never change. Your children will need school clothes. If you were clever, you hit the sales at the end of last fall, but even if you didn't, you can plan ahead this year for next year's clothing needs. Take a chance and estimate what their size will be and you’ll be glad you did. Full-price clothes at the beginning of a season are enough to break anyone’s bank. Don’t forget about hand-me-downs, either. We all wore them, and so can our kids.
Saving on back-to-school shopping is similar to saving when you are shopping for anything. Be organized and early and you'll save enough money to splurge on a latte and savor it while the little ones are off at school. After working so hard to get them ready, don't you think you deserve it?