How Do You Save On Back To School in 2023?
Let’s face it, having kids can get pretty expensive. Getting them ready to go back to school is just one of those expenses. Clothes, school supplies, electronics, backpacks, lunch bags, water bottles, etc. It all adds up quickly.
But with the right tips and tricks, going back to school on a budget is possible. Believe me, your wallet will thank you.
How to Go Back to School on a Budget
Make a list of what you need to buy
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your family is to make a complete list of what each child will need to go back to school. This list should include everything – clothes, shoes, lunch box, school supplies, teachers’ gifts, etc.
Making a list will help you get into the right frame of mind, but also it will give you the complete picture. This list should include every item for school, even if you already have it.
Another reason to make a list (and stick to it) is so that you do not overspend on items that are a want and not a need. For example, you need a water bottle, but you do not need one that includes a snack space and small cups and utensils (you get the picture).
How Do You Budget for Back to School?
Once you have a complete list of all needed items for the school year, you will need to figure out what you have available to spend. This and step one are the most important steps in this plan. What do you need and what can you afford?
The budget needs to be:
- realistic – what can you spend without going into debt
- sufficient to buy what you need for school – covers the must-have items on your list
- include room for items that may come up (think new shoes due to a growth spurt)
Use this moment to teach your children about money, spending, saving, and not being able to afford something. Do not sweep it under the rug.
I am very forward with my kids about it when we just cannot cover the cost of a wanted (not needed) item. I do however let them have the choice to pay for it with their funds. Allowing that may make them reassess whether they want it!
Finally, with a budget in hand and a complete list of needed items, now comes the hard part. You have to stay within budget.
Use a system – envelope system, prepaid debit card with your limit on it, or buy gift cards if you cannot stay within your budget on a credit card. This is KEY to making this work.
Go shopping at home first
With your complete list in hand and budget set, the absolute best place to start is in your own home.
Do you remember when you bought that extra couple of pencil sets and glue sticks after the end of the season last year? What about the lunch bag, and backpack? If they are in good shape, then they are keepers? You get the idea. Next time put all those supplies into one basket, bin, or closed box marked school supplies to save you time.
Finally, going through the clothes you already have to see what fits and what is worn out, is an excellent idea, your list may already be partially done on this step. All without spending a dime. YAY!!! I get geeked when I find stuff I can use in the kiddo’s closets 🙂
Start early and shop for deals
So, I bet your inbox, mailbox, and store ads are full of back-to-school items this month and maybe a little bit even last month. But who says that you have to wait until then to start shopping? As a way to make a huge hit to the annual budget a little easier, spread it out over 6 or 9 months.
This tip especially makes sense for clothes. I always try to buy clothes for the following year’s same season when they are on sale.
For example, at the end of the summer season, I look for t-shirts and shorts for next year a size bigger. So completing my shopping in smaller doses, is much easier on my overall budget.
Plus as a bonus, I am often scoring better prices on top of the line items. For example, I bought Keen water sandals for my kids, normally full priced at $55.00, for $15.00!! The only catch is that you may not get the exact color you want, being a bit flexible is key to making the after-season shopping work.
Buy in bulk
This tip works for items you know you will need a ton of and items that do not expire. If I find a really good deal on pencils, I will buy extra and place them in my school supplies box.
This is a good idea for two reasons, you will have a set for the following year. Two, if your kid loses all the pencils and it out by January, you will not have to rush out and purchase them full price.
Just make sure that the price fits your budget. If you go over it, it defeats the purpose of having a budget in the first place. Also, do you need a pack of 100 pencils?
Depends on you, your family circumstances, job, etc. What works in bulk for some families may not work for others. My point is, do NOT buy it just because it is a good deal.
Economize / Buy second-hand
Depending on your family’s needs, this tip may be the biggest budget saver ever. Economizing means not buying the top of the line item or that super expensive name-brand pair of jeans. For example, rather than spending a ton on kidsGap jeans for my oldest, who tears through jeans like it’s their job, I go to Target and buy Cat and Jack.
The savings are immense, they last just as long and have what is in style. So this is a way to get what you need on your list, without breaking the bank.
The second option, and the more frugal of the two, is to look for items that are needed second-hand. Whether that is at a local thrift store, garage sale, eBay, or Craigslist, that is up to you. But the savings of buying used items, especially clothes, can make a huge dent in your savings.
While this may not be for everyone, I would recommend at least trying it for some items. You might be surprised by what you can find.
For example, I found a nearly new pair of dress shoes for my youngest, which would have set me back at least $30.00 in store for the same brand. I paid $3.00. Or the almost new babyGap jean jacket, which I know retailed for almost $35.00, I found at a garage sale for $2.50.
Give it a try to see what you can find. If you absolutely must have new items, I would recommend checking out eBay or other sites like it, as they have tons of sellers with new clothing items often at a discount from what you would have paid in-store.
Shop tax-free days, if your state offers it
One of the best parts of back to school, for those in states that offer tax-free days, is the ability to buy items without the added cost of taxes. While my state does not offer this perk. I can imagine it helps the budget stretch a bit further.
If you live where you can take advantage of this opportunity, make sure you plan to shop on those days and I would recommend going earlier in the day, as I would guess that the crowds are much bigger at the stores on tax-free holidays!
When should I start buying school supplies?
For back-to-school tips, I am guessing that this may seem a bit counter-intuitive. But stay with me here. All the “sales” flyers for back-to-school show up in July, but those sales are not usually as good as the ones right before school is about to start.
So, if you can wait on the school supplies part of your back-to-school list, that choice may pay you back in big savings. I usually wait to buy until August or September. Not only may the items be on deeper sales, but they also may be on clearance. It is a perfect time to stock up!
Ready for Back To School on a Budget – Don’t Forget To Save Money On Lunch
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If you put these tips to use in getting your family ready to go back to school, I hope you find yourself more prepared to go back, organized, saved some money along the way, stayed within what you could afford, and maybe even got a head start on next year.
Now, time to pack those school and lunch bags and send them back to school!