I can’t believe it’s already time to think about back to school, but sticking my head in the sand about the impending start of the school year does nothing to help us get prepared. Last year the average family spent almost $700 on back to school costs. Unless your kid requires a computer, I don’t believe it’s necessary or wise to spend that much. Before heading out to stock up on school supplies, take some time to prepare. There are tons of ways to save on back to school shopping.
Look Around the House for Functional School Supplies
Once you obtain the necessary school supply list, take a look around the house. It’s tempting to pick up the list from the store and throw everything in the cart that same day, but there is a good chance you don’t need to buy everything new.
We were able to find an unused glue stick, some markers, folders, scissors, rulers, notebooks, and plenty of paper towels and tissues. Our PE shoes from last year still fit, so that’s a nice savings. Kids also don’t need new backpacks and lunch boxes every year. We will be using our same backpack from 1st grade. It was from Land’s End and was a little more expensive than something from Walmart, but it has really taken a beating and held up well.
I still need to buy some supplies, but we’ve already knocked out a third of the list. An added bonus was cleaning out the junk drawer and art supply shelf. Not only is my home more organized, I also found a $20 gift card from Payless that I though was gone forever. It really can pay to declutter!
Set a Back to School Budget
It’s very easy as parents to get caught up on back to school sales. We want our kids to have the best, so it’s tempting to give in when they find that perfect shirt or backpack they they just can’t live without. After all, it’s on sale, right?
In reality, having no boundaries only sets kid up for future disappointment when they don’t know how to control spending and have access to credit. It’s a recipe for disaster.
With younger kids, parents need to have a set budget and stick to it. Don’t be tempted by cute. With older kids, it works really well to give a budget for clothes or shoes and let them choose. That way they can have whatever they want with the understanding that paying more for name brands means less quantity. Once you have a budget based on what you can afford, it’s time to go shopping.
Is it Cheaper Online?
I always try to buy online if possible. It saves time, and I am not tempted by sales or store displays. Another nice thing about online shopping is having the ability to comparison shop pretty easily to make sure you’re getting the best price.
If you have a Target Red Card or can have items sent to a local store for pickup, you shouldn’t have to pay for shipping. For folks who are thinking about joining Amazon Prime, the first month is free. Back to school time might be a great opportunity to try it out for the free two day shipping.
Shop During Tax Free Weekend
For many states, next weekend means no sales tax up to certain minimums on various clothing and school supplies. If you’re buying pencils and paper, it won’t save a ton, but if your kid needs clothes or a laptop, it could mean significant savings. Even if you don’t have kids, it might be a good time to jump on buying a computer. I wouldn’t pay more in retail price just to save the sales tax, but if the asking price is right, why not save as much as possible? Check this list from Taxadmin.org to see which states are participating and how much you can save.
Take Advantage of Reward Points and Cash Back Options
For those of you who use points for cash back or travel, back to school shopping can offer some nice rewards. Currently, if you have a Chase Freedom card, there is a 5x bonus for purchases from Kohl’s. With a Chase Ink Bold, any purchase from a office supply store offers 5x points. Almost every credit card has a shopping portal for extra bonus points on purchases from various stores.
If credit cards rewards aren’t important but you still like to shop online, don’t forget to use a cash back portal like Ebates. Right now, they are offering around eight percent cash back from clothing stores like Old Navy, American Eagle, and JC Penney, plus up to 5.5 percent cash back on certain Amazon back to school purchases.
Financial Literacy is the Best Back to School Gift
If you have kids, back to school shopping is a necessary evil. Remember that financial literacy is one of the best gifts we can give our children. Setting a good example of how to shop responsibly during the craziness of back to school is a lesson that will last long after shoes or jeans purchased today are long gone.
How much do you intend to spend on back to school? Do you feel that back to school sales and shopping have gotten as bad as Black Friday?