Are you ready to send the kids back to school? More importantly, is your wallet ready?
From clothing to school supplies to laptop computers, this time of year typically puts a strain on household finances. But you can head off the back-to-school-shopping blues in lots of ways.
A great place to start is to prepare a budget. Figure out how much you can afford to spend and make a list of what the kids will need. And don’t be afraid to say “no” to things that they would like to have, but really don’t need.
You can kick off the budget process by holding a “family meeting” and discussing with the kids their needs and wants. Make a list of both so they can visualize what’s going on. Then go online and price the items on each list. This will help give the kids a better understanding and appreciation of what it’s going to cost to prepare them for school.
Before you start shopping, take stock of what can be used or re-used from the previous school year. This can range from backpacks to clothes to notepads. Of course, your kids may argue that they need everything “new.” But by going back to the “needs” and “wants” lists, you should be able to compromise and reach a common ground.
Here are some other ideas to consider:
• Look for sales in bricks-and-mortar stores as well as online.
• Consider buying used items. Check out consignment shops and thrift stores and stop by yard sales. You may be surprised by the bargains you can pick up. For instance, many parents will buy school clothing for their kids, only to find out that a lot of it is barely worn by the end of the school year. Those clothes end up being taken to Goodwill and similar stores, where they’re resold at a fraction of the original cost.
• Team up with your neighbors and friends and buy in bulk at the big box stores or online. This is great for items such as pencils, pens, and notepads. You end up saving some serious bucks by splitting the costs and the supplies. And depending on online purchases, you could save on shipping costs as well if you buy larger quantities.
• Look for coupons online as well as in print publications such as newspapers and store fliers.
• Try not to wait until the last minute to do your shopping. You could end up spending a lot more because the items you wanted are no longer in stock and you’re stuck having to purchase more expensive alternatives.
• Keep all receipts just in case you need to return something. And chances are you will. Remember last year when your kids said they absolutely needed a particular type of notebook and it turned out they needed another type?
• Along the same lines, know the refund policies of stores and websites where you shop.
• When you can, buy generic vs. brand name. Depending on the item, the difference in price can be amazing.
You don’t need to “break the bank” to prepare for the school season if you plan ahead and keep your expenses in check.