Shop at Home First
Before you head to the store, take a walk around your house to see if there are any items on your child's school supply list that you might already have. Things like rulers, pencil boxes, calculators and backpacks do not need to be replaced each year, so don't be afraid to reuse last year's if it's still in good shape.
Tip: Instead of buying pencils and pens, send your child back to school with the free ones that businesses hand out (you know the ones that are currently taking up space in your junk drawer).
10-cent crayons, 5-cent folders, 50-cent binders – stores fight hard for your back to school dollars, and that's great news for you. Watch the weekly sales circulars closely; then, cherry pick the best buys from each store. Remember: Just because store X wants you to spend all of your back to school dollars at their store, doesn't mean you have to; so get those 10-cent crayons, and get out.
Tip: Shop at a store that offers price matching, and you won't have to burn up extra gas to get the good deals at other stores.
Take Advantage of Tax-Free Holidays
Many states offer tax-free holidays around the start of the school year. Find out if your state has one planned; and if it does, be sure to take advantage of it. Shopping on the right day could take as much as 10% off of your back to school tab.
Only Buy What You Need
Once you're in the store, all those fun extras can be tempting – colored pens, locker accessories, self-stick notes, the list stretches on and on – but chances are, your back to school budget doesn't. To avoid overspending, determine how you'll handle your child's requests for non-essentials before you head out to shop.
Some Ways to Handle Your Child's Requests:
- Allow one extra purchase
- Have your child foot the bill for anything that's not on the list
- Have your child pay the difference between what you're willing to buy, and what they want to buy
- Refuse to give in to the request. It may not make you popular, but it is a chance to teach smart money management
Plain Jane school supplies always cost less then their fancier counterparts, but let's face it: to a kid they just aren't as fun. The solution? Buy the budget-friendly basics; then, let your kiddo jazz them up with stickers and colorful doodles.