Back to School on a Budget

It’s that time of year again. Summer is on its last leg, and you are receiving teacher letters in the mail. It’s time to get organized and prepare for your children going back to school. This can be very expensive depending on the number of children in your household. There are many ways to save on back to school spending.

First, do an inventory of items you already have at home. Go through those backpacks that were tossed aside on the last day of school, and see what pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, calculators, etc. are still usable. Then, look at your child’s teacher website, if they have one. Sometimes teachers post lists prior to the start of school as to what your child will need to bring to the classroom. This helps alleviate the expense buying unneeded items. If you must buy items, try to buy the first couple of weeks in August. There are tons of sales offering these items for very little, sometimes a few cents. Check out office supply stores and your local super stores for great deals. See if your child’s backpack is usable again for this year. If not, my first choice is to use an older sibling’s backpack if they are grown out of it. If your child is young, and you want to buy him a character backpack, look for sales and shop discount stores for a reasonably priced one. I have even found backpacks in great shape at yard sales. If your child is older, consider investing in a better backpack that you can get years of use out of.

Clothing and shoes take the biggest bite out of your budget for back to school shopping. Again, go through the kids’ drawers and closets. Have your child try on clothing, and take a mental (or written) inventory of what fits and what you need to buy. Pass on smaller clothing to your younger children, or try selling it on E-bay, Craigslist, or at a consignment store. Any money you make from the sale of this clothing can be put toward new school clothing. Figure out what type of clothing you really need to buy before the start of school. Depending on where you live, it may stay warm well into October or even November. My kids wear shorts til the snow flies, and I don’t even attempt to buy them jeans until then. Try to track your children’s growing spurts. Mine grow in the spring, and again in September, so that is another reason I don’t buy jeans until necessary. Shoes work the same way. I always buy a tiny bit bigger, because they have their growing spurt right after school starts.

Shopping for clothing can be daunting, but try to plan ahead. I usually try to buy most of our kids’ back to school clothing at yard sales, thrift stores, or consignment stores throughout the year, keeping in mind what size they will most likely be wearing when school starts. I stick with the popular brand name clothing that they like, and I know they will wear. I pay anywhere from 25 cents to a few dollars a piece for them. I then take the kids to a department store or specialty store and let them pick out a few new shirts, on sale of course. Once the novelty of the first week of school has worn off, they don’t mind wearing what was already hanging in their closets. Check the store ads in your local newspaper during the month of August. Many department stores offer coupons for extra percentages or dollars off your purchase.

When it comes to buying school tennis shoes, I do buy name brand shoes, but always on sale. I also use rewards cards at our favorite store, and in return get coupons in the mail for money off. A suggestion to keep new shoes looking new is to buy one pair of brand name better shoes for school, and one pair of less expensive shoes for play. I make the kids take off their school shoes and clothes as soon as they walk in the door. If they want to play outside, they must change into play clothes and play shoes. This keeps hand me downs looking fresh and new and saves me money!

Back to school shopping can be done frugally and successfully with a little planning and creative shopping.

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