Back to school season is right around the corner. That happened fast!
While kids are probably not ready to give up on summer fun, it’s important that parents start planning for back-to-school expenses and consider creating a budget. Indeed, as it gets closer to crunch time, every paycheck counts.
According to a recent survey, families plan to spend around $685 per child during the back-to-school season. In order to help you figure out how to manage these costs, we came up with the ultimate back-to-school budgeting guide.
Get started by prioritizing your expenses and planning out your spending. Take a look:
Narrow Down Your Back-to-School List
If back-to-school shopping is overwhelming, you’re not alone. You probably have tons of school supplies and more on your list and if you’re not organized, you can easily overspend or forget something.
So, before you head to the store or start shopping online, narrow down which expenses are your priorities. Some of the most popular categories are:
- School supplies
- Backpacks and lunch boxes
For starters, set a recommended spending amount for each category and notate this in your budget. This way you have something to shoot for. For example, if you only want to spend $120 on clothes, include this in your budget to help you plan your spending strategy more effectively.
Factor in Any Hidden Costs
Don’t forget about hidden back-to-school costs, like after-school activity fees, band equipment fees, setting up a school lunch account and the likes. Identify these costs early so they don’t bust your budget.
Take Inventory Around the House
Before you start doing any shopping whatsoever, take a look around your house to see what you already have. I do this each year and it saves me a ton of money.
When my son comes home on his last day of school, I unload his backpack, remove all of his leftover school supplies, and store them away. I often find unused pencils, packaged notebook paper, markers, crayons, and folders that are in pretty good shape.
When August rolls around, I take the stash of school supplies I saved and use that to determine what items I actually need to buy.
You can do this with clothes as well. Go through your child’s closet before shopping and start to piece together existing outfits that still fit and are in good condition.
Determine Your Savings Timeline
Once you know how much you have to spend and what you need to buy, start developing a timeline for your shopping so you can save up in advance.
For example, if you find that you’ll need to spend $400 on back-to school items this year, break out that amount over your next few paychecks and start saving. You can make it even easier by setting up automatic transfers every time you get paid.
Also, see if you can spread out any purchases. For example, school starts a week later for us this year so I plan to use the extra time to spread out my spending. I’ll buy school supplies first, and then take my time purchasing clothes and anything else.
Follow the Deals
When shopping, make sure you take advantage of deals and coupons to save money. Stores like Target and Walmart, and office supply outlets tend to have competitive back-to-school offers.
One year, we took advantage of Office Depot’s penny sale and scored several items for a single penny.
You can also shop in spurts as some stores may give you a coupon to use when you come back. In this case, it makes sense to do one round of back-to-school shopping and then return a few days later with the coupon.
Thanks to the Internet, you can also save money shopping from your living room. Sites like Rakuten are great for earning cash back on your purchases without having to use a credit card. You can also use sites like Flipp and Hollar to scan for deals from your phone.
Shop Used or Find Free Items
Another great way to help you stick to your back- to-school budget is to shop for used items. Clothes can be expensive and sometimes I wait around for the Labor Day sales, but I also like to mix in some used clothing.
Thrift stores like Goodwill and local resale shops allow you to get more bang for your buck and you can often find great name brand items.
If you need specific supplies, you can also ask around to see if family or friends can help. For example, an older child may need a special calculator for math. Before you run out and buy one, see if anyone you know has that calculator and will let you borrow it for the year. Perhaps they’ll even give it to you if they no longer need it!
Try to use some of these savings strategies to help you stick to your budget and avoid overspending. Odds are, you have other expenses to consider during the fall and winter months so remember not to drain your finances with back-to-school shopping.
A good tip is to set realistic expectations with your kids and plan to mix in used items. With the proper planning and budgeting strategy, you can still get everything you need for the school year!