Getting together the supplies your kids need for back-to-school can be more expensive than you’d think. Statistics show that for each kid you have, you’re looking at around $1,000. Fortunately, you won’t have to absorb that cost all at once, but over the school year that’s how much supplies, field trips, and sports will drain your bank account over time.
If you’re on the lower end of the income spectrum, $1,000 is no laughing matter, and you may be regretting having kids at all at this point. But don’t fear, we’ve gathered together seven smart back-to-school shopping tips to help you stretch your budget. And if after using these tips you still need money for your child’s school supplies, you could consider taking out a car title loan.
One of the tricks stores use to lure you into buying more than you need is to overwhelm you with a huge amount of buying options and so many stimuli when you walk through the doors that you forget what you actually went there to buy in the first place. A shopping list is the best way to counter this, so before you leave the house to write down a simple list of everything your child needs for school, and stick to those items only.
Before you venture out to the store, take an inventory of all the school supplies you have in your house left over from last year. A notebook only half full of notes means it’s still half empty for new notes. Pens don’t need to be replaced until they’re completely out of ink, and pencils can always be sharpened. Even something as simple as a backpack doesn’t need to be replaced, and those few dollars you’re saving here and there can add up to big savings over time.
Invariably, you probably won’t have everything you need already at home. But that still doesn’t mean you should run to Walmart or Target for everything you need. Thrift stores and used bookstores often have the supplies you need like backpacks, textbooks, and calculators for a good bit cheaper than a retail store.
Buying in bulk can be a great way to save money in the long-term, but you still need to do it carefully. In many cases, you won’t need as much of something as you think (how many pencils is your kid actually going to use in a year or two?) and you’ll find yourself at the end of another semester with stockpiles of supplies still in their plastic wrappers.
Amazon and other online stores have fundamentally changed how we shop in the last ten years. With free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime, any supplies you need can be at your doorstep before the week is out. And sometimes those supplies will actually be significantly cheaper than buying from brick and mortar stores. Do a quick assessment of your online options before making the effort of driving to the store and braving the back-to-school crowds.
Like buying in bulk, sales can be a powerful tool for saving money, but you should always keep your eye on the ball when considering the actual savings they offer. Often sale items will be used to lure shoppers in, and then associates will try to upsell shoppers a better, full price version of the supplies they were looking for originally.
Unlike a few of the other tips on this list, when it comes to buying electronics quality counts. You don’t necessarily need to buy your kid a laptop or new tablet for schoolwork, but if you are, do your research on the best electronics that balances features with price. The price of electronics has never been lower, but a lot of lower-end devices are barely functional, and if you buy them you’ll just have to get a replacement in six months to a year.