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Savings Tips for Back-to-School Shopping

BY Renee Bardenwerper, CPA
08/13/2013 - 1:24pm

As my oldest child prepares to start school this year, I can’t help but have a bitter-sweet feeling when thinking about back-to-school shopping.  Moreover, I was taken aback when I saw a recent Fox News report stating that American families are expected to spend over $600 this year on back-to-school gear.  Thankfully, my daughter’s supply list is short and she hasn’t developed expensive brand preferences… yet.

All things considered, I still eagerly look for easy ways to save money and time while shopping, and pass these valuable lessons on to my kids.  Below are a few quick and easy ideas to help you prepare your child for the upcoming school year.

Comparison Shop/Use Coupons

There is no doubt about it; the power of technology is incredible.  In the last few years, hours of paging through newspaper ads for the best deals has been reduced to mere minutes by using the internet or apps for your mobile device.  Websites will help sort you’re preferred items by price, and take the guess work out of bargain shopping by showing you the price at dozens of online stores.  You can get coupons and even sign up for rewards through apps on your mobile device or by “liking” different stores on Facebook. 

Lists

Speaking of apps, there are quite a few out there to help you get organized.  One grocery shopping app that I use helps track lists, recalls prices and allows for other notations, including coupons and store specials.  This app can even be used to create to-do lists.

After getting your child’s school supply list, take stock of the items you already have at home.  You may be surprised by the number of items that you are able to cross off the list right away.  Once this is done, create a list to prepare yourself ahead of time for the items needed from each store.  By sticking to a list, you can avoid spending on things you don’t need, even if they are on sale. 

Reuse

Don’t worry if all of your child’s items aren’t new.  Suggest your child reuse items from a prior year or pass them on to a sibling, such as backpacks or lunch bags, when appropriate.  Also, consider performing a quick online search to find local consignment stores.  There are even Facebook groups dedicated to individuals buying and selling their children’s clothing and toys.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find quality items at bargain prices.  Furthermore, you are teaching your child a valuable lesson about saving and being conscious of the earth’s resources.    

Budget

It doesn’t matter where you shop, how you get the best deals, or what you need to buy.  Back-to-school shopping is a fantastic opportunity to teach your child an incredibly valuable lesson: BUDGETING. 

Budgeting can be especially useful when shopping with teens who demand specific brands of clothing or shoes.  Make your child fully aware ahead of time that you are setting a limit on the back-to-school clothes.  Consider purchasing gift cards for your child ahead of time and make him/her aware that anything above and beyond is his/her responsibility.

Allow your child to splurge on that overpriced pair of jeans, as long as it is within your budget.  But, be sure that he or she understands the consequences.  Wearing that same pair of jeans four days a week or with ratty old shoes may not be the exact look he or she is looking for.  Be sure to keep the receipt, in case they realize their mistake.  It’s far better they learn the lesson of “buyer’s remorse” with an overpriced pair of jeans than with their first car or home.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how you fill your child’s supply list or where things were purchased.  Prioritize your list and stick to your budget.  By knowing specifically what you need and where to get the best deal, you can make your budget fit your needs.  Implement a budget and don’t be afraid to say, “no” if something is over your budget.  As your child’s most valuable teacher, this sometimes daunting task can be used as a valuable lesson that books and classrooms cannot provide.

Be sure to share this post and these money saving tips.