Want your kids to look fantastic and have all the tools they need for success this school year but don’t have a lot to spend? Don’t despair! There are several ways to score everything you need without breaking the bank. Whether you are shopping for one kid or several, here are a few tips and some helpful advice on back to school shopping on a budget.
School Shopping on a Budget
Start With a Game Plan
If you go shopping without a game plan, you’re going to spend too much money. That’s a huge problem when you’re working with a limited budget. An excellent way to instantly reduce your costs is to take inventory of what you already have. If you’re like most parents, you probably already have more than enough pens and pencils lying around. Unless the teacher requires you to buy something specific, save yourself some cash by using what you already have. Once you take inventory, figure out what you need to purchase and how much you can afford to spend. Set the money aside to keep yourself from going over.
Enquire About What Teachers Need Now and What Can Wait
School supply lists no longer only include things like pencils, notebooks, and crayons. Strict budgets now have teachers requesting that each student also provide things like cleaning wipes, tissues, and other supplies. If buying five tubs of wipes will set you back, talk to the teacher to find out what she needs now and what can wait until later in the school year. Most teachers are happy to work with parents to ensure that they get the classroom supplies they’ll need throughout the year without totally blowing parents’ budgets.
Plan Shopping Trips on Sales Tax Holidays
Many states that charge tax on clothing and school supplies offer “sales tax holidays” to help parents save some money while getting their families ready for the new school year. Several states offer sales tax holidays on a wide variety of items. Finding out the dates and shopping on those days could save you 5-7 percent (or more) when shopping for absolute back-to-school essentials.
Pay Attention to Weekly Ads
Office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot offer high sales at the end of the summer. You could score amazing deals like .01 for a ream of paper or a pack of crayons. Big box stores and many other retailers get in on the great deals, too, with doorbuster deals on things like notebooks, pencils, and folders. Scope out the best deals at each store every week leading up to the new school year to score rock-bottom prices on essentials.
Pay attention to sales at unexpected places, too. Grocery stores, dollar stores, and even drug stores often offer incredible deals on school supplies. It only takes a few minutes to browse a weekly ad from the Sunday newspaper or the retailer’s website, and doing so could help you save big.
Shop Clearance Sales for Clothing
Do your kids need for all of their school clothes to come from the latest fall line-up? At this time of year, retailers are marking down summer clothing to make room for fall and winter apparel. Things like khakis and blank t-shirts are going on clearance now, and they never go out of style. With several weeks of warm weather remaining before the colder days of fall and winter arrive, your kids will still have plenty of time to wear summer styles before needing to switch to hoodies and sweaters.
Check Out Your Local Thrift Store
If you haven’t been to the thrift store in a while, now is a great time to check it out. Kids outgrow their clothes fast, so it’s common for items to get donated to thrift stores before they have been worn much (if at all). Spending a few minutes browsing the racks could save you a fortune on new or barely used clothing that your kids will love. Some thrift stores even have back-to-school sales to help cash-strapped parents save even more. This is the perfect time for school shopping on a budget!
Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are also great for finding deals on gently used kids’ clothes. Parents often offload the clothes their kids have outgrown at ridiculously low prices to earn some cash for their own back to school shopping needs. Keeping an eye on these sites is a smart way to score designer duds at a fraction of the regular retail price.
Shop for Lunch Staples in Bulk
Packing your child’s lunch is often a lot more affordable than buying school lunches. And if you have a picky eater, doing so is essential if you want your child to eat. When shopping for lunch ingredients and snacks, buying in bulk can save you a bundle.
Rather than buying those snacks that are already packaged into individual servings, buy larger packages to divide into lunch portions yourself. When shopping, pay close attention to the price per ounce. You may be surprised to discover just how much the convenience of individual serving-sized packaging costs. When buying in bulk, remember not to buy more than you will use before it goes stale or spoils.
School shopping on a Budget: Learn to Say No
We all want to give our kids everything they want, but when we’re on a budget, sometimes we have to say no. Going back to school shopping on a budget as a family is a fun bonding experience, but if you aren’t careful, you could find yourself spending hundreds of dollars that you can’t afford to pay.
Before you leave the house, make it clear that you will only be shopping for items that are on the supply list and that you will be sticking to a budget. They may not be happy, but letting them know that extras are out of the question could help you avoid the pouting and puppy-dog eyes while you’re at the store. If saying no is a struggle, you might want to consider shopping on your own. It’s not quite as fun as a day out with the family, but it’s an easy way to save yourself a bundle while getting everything your child needs.