While back-to-school shopping might be a source of excitement for the little ones who are looking forward to the year ahead, the cost of these shopping trips can cause stress for parents. Whether your kids are heading into kindergarten or a college classroom, there are lots of ways you can get everything you need for back-to-school without breaking the bank.
- Take an Inventory of What You Already Have
One of the easiest ways to save on school supplies is to take a look at what you already have. Your kids likely have supplies leftover from the previous school year, so empty out their backpacks, desk drawers, and miscellaneous storage bins to see what you have on hand. This way you can determine what they really need to purchase new, and what they can reuse. Items such as backpacks, pencil cases, and lunch boxes often don’t need to be replaced annually.
This is also an opportune time to clear out closets and dresser drawers and donate clothing that your children have grown out of. Many nonprofits such as Goodwill will provide you with a receipt for your donation, which you can use to claim a tax deduction at the end of the year. Once you’ve cleared out closet space, you’ll have a better idea of what apparel your children actually need to purchase new.
- Make a List of Necessary Items
After taking an inventory of the supplies you already have, create a list for yourself of the items that are “must-haves” and not just “nice-to-haves.” Bringing a shopping list with you can prevent you from making impulse purchases as well. Studies show that people who go shopping without a list end up spending as much as 23% more than people who create a shopping list.
- Set a Budget and Stick To It
Once you’ve put together a list of school supplies that are needs and not just wants, set a realistic budget for yourself. Mint can help you set and stick to your budget, while also giving you a holistic view of your spending. If you’re doing back-to-school shopping for younger kids, this can be a great way to teach them about how to budget for something. You can shop together and let them make decisions about what they want to buy that’s within the specified budget.
- Don’t Buy Everything at Once
It can be tempting to get all of your shopping done in one trip, but this could actually cause you to spend more than necessary. For your big shopping trip, buy the necessary items like pencils and notebooks, but it may be worth holding off on other purchases like binders and art supplies. During the first few weeks of school, your children will get a better sense of what supplies they’ll actually be using and what would just be excess. Plus, you may be able to capitalize on sale prices following peak back-to-school shopping season.
- Rent or Buy Used Equipment
There are some items that are just too expensive and can totally throw off your budget. After school activities and extracurricular activities often require equipment, such as a musical instrument for the school band and miscellaneous sports equipment. By renting these items (or buying second-hand), you can save a lot of money while still letting your kids pursue whatever activity they want to participate in. Rent My Instrument charges low monthly rental payments for a variety of instruments, and stores such as Play It Again Sports offer used sporting goods for a fraction of the price.
- Collect Coupons
Despite back-to-school season being one of the most profitable sales times for big box stores and retailers, many still offer great coupons for an extra incentive to get you in the door. Signing up for email offers from stores can deliver deals and discounts straight to your inbox. If you’re opting to do your back-to-school shopping online this year, try using apps like Honey that will automatically help you find the best available discount code to make sure you never spend more than you have to.
- Buy in Bulk
If you have some extra space to store items, buying in bulk is a great way to save money on certain items. Bulk purchases are especially helpful for households with multiple children going back to school — you can buy the essentials and use them throughout the entire year, and possibly into the next year as well.
If you have the ability to contribute, buying in bulk is a great way not only to get the supplies you need for your family, but also enough to donate supplies to the entire classroom. Items like disinfectant wipes, tissues, pencils, and even non-perishable snacks are great for buying in bulk and will last you many months.
- Visit the Dollar Store
You can get a great bargain on a majority of your school supplies at the dollar store. These shops often carry basic essentials such as notebooks and writing instruments, and even items like dry erase markers that you can donate to the classroom.