As summer winds down and back-to-school specials start to appear in your favorite stores, you may be thinking about how to outfit your kids with everything they will need this year without emptying your wallet. From new backpacks to that classroom supplies list, uniforms and more, the average cost of supplies for students of all ages have risen significantly, according to a 2016 report. Outfitting your kids with what they need for the school year can be a challenge, but there are a few strategies you can use to help ease the strain on your household budget.
Talk to Your Kids Before You Shop
Back-to-school supplies can be big business, especially when it comes to notebooks, backpacks, and binders that feature popular movie and cartoon characters. While these items may look exciting and colorful, they are typically several dollars more than non-themed items. As a result, this can blow your school supply budget sky high.
To avoid this issue, talk to your children before you shop. Let them know that while themed supplies can be fun, you have a budget to follow and cannot indulge them in expensive items. Have them choose one or two notebooks or binders or allow them a themed backpack, if it is affordable, but be firm about what you plan to spend once you get to the store.
Sticking to a budget is all the more necessary when shopping for expensive notebooks, a.k.a. laptop computers. Consider buying a refurbished laptop as your children’s first computer or one you send your older child to college with. With the purchase, you get the functionalities and save money.
Check Store Websites for Deals
While store circulars are still popular for many businesses, quite a few advertise directly on their websites as well, and this is a quick and simple way to find money-saving deals on school supplies and clothing. Some retail businesses even run specials that are exclusive to the website, while others offer web coupons that can only be used if you shop online. Some sales start as soon as two to three weeks before the start of school, so you may want to start looking toward the end of summer.
Shop During the Tax Holiday
Most states have a tax-free shopping weekend during August, and this can save you a significant amount of money if you are shopping for more than one child. The tax break typically applies to clothing, school supplies, many electronics, and backpacks. However, these exemptions may vary from state to state, so you may want to check local laws before you head out to the stores.
Create a School Carpool
If there is no bussing available for your child’s school or you enjoy dropping the kids off on your way to school in order to spend a bit more time with them in the morning, then creating a neighborhood carpool is an effective and money-saving transportation solution. You can either share the driving duties with other parents or carpool full time, depending on how much money you want to save.
Carpooling can save you money in two ways. First, it will help you conserve gas and second, you may be able to qualify for insurance discounts, depending on the perks your local insurance agency offers.
Find Dorm Supplies at the Dollar Store
If you have an older child starting college, finding everything they need for their dorm room without breaking the bank can be a challenge, but you may be able to find the basics at your local dollar store. Hotplates, sheet sets, lamps, and rugs are usually available at these retailers for a reduced price, especially during the early fall. You may be also to find basic school supplies for a reduced or bulk price for your younger kids, so it may be worth the trip.
Back to school shopping can be stressful as well as costly. However, with a bit of forethought and some strategic planning, you can save a significant amount of cash and send your kids off to school in style at the same time.