Ready or not, back to school season is here! This is the time of year that can end up being very costly to parents. Many of you might be tempted to just dig out the credit card to cover all of the expenses. Please – I beg of you – don’t! It is like drinking too much – you might have fun while you are doing it, but you will wake up with one heck of a hangover and regret it!
First of all, you should have been budgeting for this previously. Just like birthdays and holidays, this is not something that is a surprise. If you have kids, you have to purchase supplies each year. While you might have to just catch up quickly this year, next year, make sure you include it in your monthly savings. If you spend $600 this year, that means you need to save $50 each month to cover next year. I know, I know – but how does that help you this year? It really doesn’t, but here are some things to keep in mind:
INVENTORY: Just because it is a new year, doesn’t mean that you must buy all new supplies. Take a look at the crayons – do you still have the number required on the supplies list? How about the notebook? Just tear out the used pages. Clean up that backpack from last year and wipe out the pencil box. Even if the erasers are shot on the pencils, you can pick up a package of erasers tips and make them as good as new.
CLOTHES: This seems to be a thorn in the side of many parents. If your children’s clothes don’t fit, then you will have to get them something that does. But, that doesn’t always mean that you have to hit the department stores and drop $40 on a pair of jeans. Try garage sales or consignment shops. Keep your eyes on those sales at your favorite store. If you have a friend who has a child sizes up or down from yours, consider a clothing swap.
COMPARISON SHOP: I am sure by now that you have been bombarded with ads containing deals. If you are running miles between locations to save $0.05 on that box of crayons, did you really save the money or did you spend it in fuel expenses? Sometimes, it is easier and more frugal to pick up all of your items at the same store. And don’t forget about price matching – -which is a great way to get the best prices with just one stop!
SCHOOL LUNCHES: If you can pack your child’s lunch, you might be able to save handing over more money to your school district. Avoid the prepackaged meals (they are also full of more nitrates and things that aren’t always healthy anyhow) and cookies/snacks. Instead, opt for the simple sandwich, some apple sticks and carrot sticks to give your child a meal that is not only healthy, but also relatively inexpensive as well. If you can’t bring your own lunch and money is tight, check with your school about the reduced or free lunch programs that they offer.
STOCK UP FOR NEXT SCHOOL YEAR: If you wait until a month or so after school has started, you are likely to find items marked down even further. I picked up 1 subject notebooks for only $0.05 each and even found backpacks for just $4.98. So, I set them back for THIS school year and now, we have the supplies we will need and have paid even less than the “hot” back to school deals this year.
SHOP TAX FREE. There are many states that are offering tax free shopping to help families save money. previously shared a list of these events. You can find out if your state participates here.
Just be smart with your finances and you’ll get through this time of year. And next year, it will be less taxing because you’ll have survived this year paying with cash!
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(I am not a financial advisor and the information listed within these Debt Challenge posts is not to be construed a financial advice. This is knowledge we gained through our own personal experiences and information as outlined in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Makeover — and is being shared as such. Participants are not required to follow any steps listed if they do not wish to do so. Financial concerns/issues should be addressed with a professional in order to receive advice and assistance.)