When summer winds down, stores across the country will fill up with pencils, paper, and notebooks in preparation for the “Back-to-School” shopping season. Back-to-school shopping is big business. In fact, the average parent spends approximately $200-$375 a year on school supplies. And that doesn’t include musical instrument rentals, electronic devices or clothing, which can set you back even more. With costs this high, budgeting for the new school year becomes essential for families. Here are a few suggestions to help you plan for the school year:
1. Save throughout the year. Review what you spent last year just to get an idea of how much you need to save. Then make a plan to put money aside all year long for school supplies. Consider setting up a saving account for back-to-school funds and contribute to it throughout the year. This way, you won’t feel the burden of one large expense when the new school year rolls around.
2. Involve your children. It’s good for kids to know what it’s like to save and budget for expenses. Talk to your children about the costs of required school items. Let them help you comparison shop at stores using online or print ads. Involving children helps them learn to appreciate the cost of school supplies and your contribution to their education. They can even put money from their own jobs or chores toward school items. Each child is different, so involve them in appropriate ways for their age and personality.
3. Look everywhere for deals. Use online coupons as well as those from newspapers or flyers to comparison shop. Consider renting items (e.g., textbooks, musical instruments, technology) or shopping for secondhand items to reduce costs. Plan for tax-free shopping weekends. If your children wear uniforms, organize a clothing swap with friends for gently used school clothes. Being creative can really help save when money is tight.
4. Start early. Look for deals months ahead of the new school year so you don’t feel rushed into buying items at higher prices. Deals can start mid-summer so keep your eyes open for items your kids need.
Whatever strategies you adopt, planning ahead for back-to-school expenses can help ease your financial burden and help you stay within your family budget.