Tips for Back-to-School Shopping

It’s back-to-school season, and that means you’ve got a list of stuff a mile long to buy. The good news is that you don’t need to break the budget during the second-biggest shopping season of the year.

There are lots of ways to save, and if you plan your shopping well in advance instead of frantically rushing to get everything done at the last minute, you can save a lot of money. Below, we’ve compiled six back-to-school shopping tips to get you started.

1. Take inventory

Don’t set foot in a single store without first checking to see what you have at home. You may have stocked up on paper in the spring or maybe you bought some clothes for your child at the end-of-season sale last year and you’ve put it in storage. Maybe your child cleaned out their desk/locker at the end of last school year and there may still be items that can be reused as well.  Keep a running list of everything you find so you know exactly what you have before you spend a dime on new supplies and clothing. 

2. Shop with a list

And we’re not just talking about the list of required supplies your child’s school or teacher has sent home. When shopping for anything, especially with kids and teens, it’s best to start out with a clear goal of what you plan to buy. This way, you’ll be less likely to overspend and come home with bags of stuff you don’t really need, along with lots of buyer’s remorse. Make a list before hitting the mall, the school supplies store and even before shopping online. 

3. Create a Budget and Shop with Coupons

 Prioritize your child’s needs and stick to your budget.  (Learn more about creating a budget). You can find manufacturer’s coupons online or receive discounts by signing up on email lists or rewards programs. 

4. Divide and conquer

Many stores offer specials on school supplies all summer long.  One store may be offering a  doorbuster deal on crayons this week, while another store is running a super sale on pencils – and the stores are across town from each other. You don’t want to spend all weekend hunting down supplies, and you don’t want to lose all your savings to fill up on gas either. Keep your savings, and your sanity, by teaming up with another parent. Divide the school supply list between the two of you, pooling costs and paying back as necessary. This way, while one of you can go pick up the crayons at half-price in Walmart, the other can load up on marked-down pencils in Staples. 

5. Let your kids choose some items on their own

You can teach your kids a lesson in budgeting by allowing them to shop for one or more of the costlier items they need. For example, you can have your middle-schooler choose and pay for their own backpack. Set a reasonable budget together, but let your child do the actual choosing and paying on their own. They’ll learn how to make responsible money choices and so much more. To encourage thriftiness, you can offer to allow your child to keep the change. 

6. Save some stuff for later

Yes, your child will be starting school soon and they’ll need some supplies and clothing before the big first day. But the stores won’t be going anywhere, and there’s no need to purchase a complete autumn wardrobe before Labor Day. Waiting a bit for the mid-season sales will save you a ton of money. As a bonus, shopping without the pressure of having everything ready for the new school year will help you make better money choices. 

It’s back-to-school shopping season, but that doesn’t mean you need to toss your budget out the window! Cash in on savings with these tips and get your shopping done without breaking the bank.