Back-to-School Budgeting

Aug 12, 2013

Ah, that first day of school when, along with paperwork about joining the PTA, parents received the dreaded “supplies list,” which can end up costing them $75 to $100 or more per child.

What’s a Parent to Do?

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling suggests the following tips on minimizing the impact of back-to-school supply shopping on parents.

  • Begin with a plan—start by taking an inventory of what you currently have at home and talking with your kids about what they will need. Many schools publish the supply list over the summer. Take a look so you’ll know what you’ll need or talk to parents with older children to get an idea of what’s going to be on the list.
  • Clip coupons and watch for sales—once you know what items you’re likely to need, watch for those items to go on sale and compare prices on different items. You should also find out if your state has a back-to-school tax-free shopping holiday so you’ll save even more.
  • Develop a budget and stick to it—monitor where kids shop and limit spending amounts with pre-paid gift cards, which nearly every retailer offers for both in-store and online purchases. This is also a great opportunity to teach older kids about responsible spending habits. Let them do the comparison shopping and point out if they choose the more expensive item, they will have to cut back in other areas.
  • Buy in bulk—buying supplies like pens or notebooks in large quantities can save you money in the long run. Consider splitting the cost and the items with another parent.
  • Shop online—stores often put their best sales online and it’s a great way to compare prices. However, protect yourself by making sure the online transactions are secure. When in doubt, pick up the phone and call. Most online retail sites also have toll-free numbers.
  • Hang on to your receipts—return items that won’t get used. If the item goes on sale after you purchase it, ask the store to give you credit for the difference.
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