Looking to save money, cut expenses, and live more frugally? Join me for Frugal Fridays, a series that will help you get a handle on your finances, be more intentional with your money, and live comfortably within your means. Let’s learn to live better on less together! Check out these past Friday posts for more ideas: here, here, and here.
I’ve learned over the years that without a budget for school stuff, I can seriously overspend. Even having never been a Boy Scout, I am all about being prepared. I’ll start grabbing things off the shelf that the kids may need and indulging in what they think they want until the cart’s full and my bank account is empty.
I’m sure many of you can relate. We want to send our kids off to school with anything they may need to have a good year, full of growth and learning. And since we can’t be there with them (except for you homeschooling mamas), we give them tools.
If you’ve ever struggled with staying in a budget for the Back to School essentials, I’m right there with you. So here are a few things that I do now to keep the expenses down while still making sure my kids have what they need that first day back.
Plan out your budget. Before you even see a supply list, figure out how much you can afford to spend. Unless your child is older and in need of a fancy hundred dollar graphing calculator, you can usually keep within any budget you set. With some discipline.
- Wait for the supply list. Teachers and schools usually put out a supply list ahead of time so parents can get everything before school starts, allowing the teachers to get started right away with their lessons. Or maybe so we parents can catch the good sales.
Don’t start buying before you get that list or you’ll land up grabbing stuff you think you’ll need, only to have it spend the next few months languishing in the back of your closet, still in the plastic bag, waiting to be returned. Call your school if you haven’t received anything by mid-August.
- Stalk the sales. My favorite sales are the ones at Office Max/ Office Depot. This last year, if I spent $5, I could get certain things for a penny! Spending $5 on already reduced sale items was easy and the penny items were things I needed anyway, like glue and loose leaf paper.
Walmart is always great for low prices and I usually stop there for anything I couldn’t find elsewhere on sale. Check out Target, CVS, Amazon, and your local dollar store. Without sacrificing quality, be open to all brands. Compare prices so you know that you’re getting a good deal. You can compare with this site.
(If you use Swagbucks, check for cashback offers through them to save even more money!)
- Stock up. If your budget allows, stock up on the things that you may need throughout the year. I always try to grab extra pencils, crayons, paper, and glue (yes, my kids are pretty young). Later in the year, when your child needs to replenish his/her pencil supply, the prices will be a lot higher so try to get these things while the getting’s good.
- Don’t forget the household stuff. Nowadays, it’s pretty common for teachers to ask parents to supply classroom needs as well as their child’s (not that I blame them), asking for things like tissues, cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and zip top bags. So check out the sales on these items, too.
I like to hit the dollar store for the hand sanitizer and bags. For everything else, I head to Sam’s Club and divvy things up amongst the kids based on how many of each was requested. I keep the rest for our home use or for a mid-year donation because cold season always depletes a teacher’s reserves.
Also, if you have friends whose kids are also in need of such things, consider going in on a value package together. It may save you some money, especially if it’s an item you won’t use around your house regularly.
Donate. Since my kids are younger, we don’t have much need for highlighters and protractors. But when I see them for a quarter, I’ll pick up some anyway. There are always donation centers for back to school supplies set up. Local radio and TV stations, churches, grocery stores, and maybe even your office will have a drive. If you won’t miss the extra few dollars, do some other family or a teacher a favor and donate what you don’t need for a student who does.
Getting the kids back into a school time routine can be stressful enough. Planning ahead and budgeting your money can save you from needless headaches as well as unnecessary purchases. I hope these suggestions help you have a successful and money-smart start to this academic year!
Do you have anything to add to this list for best budgeting practices? If you have any tips, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Need to turn inspiration into action? Ready, Set, Go!
- Decide on how much you want to spend.. and stick to it!
- Find out what your kids need before you buy.
- Stalk sales, scour flyers, and buy collectively with a friend.
- If your budget allows, consider stocking up on good deals for the rest of the school year and buying a little extra to give to a supply drive. Paying it forward never hurt anyone.