Back to School: How to Avoid Overspending

Manda McGrath By Manda McGrath, 29th Jul 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Kids

Stressed about back to school? Here are some helpful hints for back to school shopping to avoid spending hundreds of necessary dollars on supplies that may not even be used.

Thinking Ahead for Back to School

If your child is beyond his or first year of school, then you should actually be thinking about your plan before the shopping season for this school year starts. Consider this: What do you already own?

It is tempting for children to clear out lockers and book bags and dump all of the content in the trash can. Sometimes this is necessary with battered or cheap and worn supplies. However, plenty of binders spend half the year shelved in a locker or buried in a bedroom without ever really being used. (As an educator I've salvaged many a discarded binder or barely used spiral notebook to save for students who can't afford supplies the next year.)

Is last year's backpack still in good shape? The lunchbox, too? Is it really necessary to buy a new theme each year or have you chosen something that can last?

Will your child really need a new three ring binder or does the current one have another year of life in it? Does a spiral notebook with ten used pages really need to be discarded?

Identifying the Essentials and Setting Realistic Expectations

Stores like Target and Walmart do a great job of making the back to school section colorful and inviting. Sometimes we all need a little energy and enthusiasm to get us back into gear. Do we really need six cat folders, though? Is it necessary to buy decorative pencil pouches that will likely be abandoned?

Before you rely on the school list for this, take a pause. If you are an early shopper, one of your worst mistakes can be buying everything on the list without checking in with the school or teacher first. It's understandable that parents are upset when lists change, but many times teachers do not generate their own unique list or are hired in a position after the list is generated. Do you really want to buy a five subject spiral for each class only to find out most teachers are using Google classroom this year?

Your child really only needs a few things the first day: something to write with, something to write on, and a positive attitude.

It's okay to spoil them occasionally by letting them choose something in a design they like. (Hello, Pikachu backpack!) However, this doesn't mean buying everything in a coordinated theme or paying 3$ extra for the "fancy" folders.

Compare Prices Regularly

Bring your cell phone and scan each item on your store's app. Search online retail giants such as Amazon to see if anyone can beat the price. Yes, all the stores boast great prices, but plenty of the items can be found cheaply year round.

Do not trust a sign or ad because it says "great sale." This year I found the ice packs I'd book marked online for $12.99 in a retail store for $3.99. I also found a lunchbox marked $14.99 at the store for only $10.99 online with free shipping. If something is a "must have" and more than a few dollars, do your due diligence.

Don't forget that some states offer a tax free weekend, but do make sure you know what categories are covered under this deal.

Leave the Kids at Home if You Must

No, really, it's okay. It's your money and budget and it can be difficult to say no. Plan to let your child pick the special lunchbox or a certain pencil case on another trip. You can grab the boring must haves (bulk paper, pencils, socks) by yourself and avoid unnecessary upgrades (glitter, extra eraser toppers that look like animals, "cool" socks, tacky pocket folders with boy bands soon to be forgotten).

If you do want to bring your child along, you might consider giving your child the budget amount they are allowed to spend, the supplies they must include, and free reign to choose their own items in this limited budget. This may help your child to identify wants vs. needs and to learn to prioritize what matters most to him or her.


Back To School, Budget, Education, Parenting, Parenting Tips, Parents

Meet the author

author avatar Manda McGrath
Feminist, educator, mom, and book enthusiast.

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