Building a Back-to-School Budget
Back-to-school season is almost upon us. Whether you or your children are learning from home or in the classroom, school supplies and college essentials can take up a big chunk of your budget. While back-to-school shopping is an exciting time for little ones, it can be a stressful time for adults. Even though some of the basic individual items like pencils and paper may not be expensive, it all adds up quite quickly, especially for multi-student households! It’s helpful to create a plan and budget for these expenses in advance so you can cross all of your needed back-to-school items off your list without breaking the bank.
One of the easiest ways to save when back-to-school shopping is to take inventory of what you already have. Gather up all of the school supplies in your home and take a look at what’s there. You might find that you still have a stash of supplies left over from last year. Once you’re done with supplies, don’t forget to check closets and dressers too! This way you know what clothes you already have to work with. And make sure to try things on to see what still fits from last year. Once you see what you have in terms of supplies and apparel, you can determine which items are still in good shape or even are brand new and which items you still need to purchase.
Make a List
Thankfully, most teachers provide a list of what supplies will be needed for their class. Take each list you get and put the items on one master list that you take shopping with you, so you don’t have to keep track of multiple lists. For college-bound students, there are many online lists of dorm room essentials and technology needs. And don’t forget to go ahead and cross off any of the items you already have! This way you avoid purchasing multiples and can save that money for your other expenses.
Plan Around Sales & Deals
Big summer sale events are the perfect opportunities to get great deals on apparel, electronics, and dorm room essentials like bedding, furnishings, and small appliances. Many stores and websites also offer daily deals and coupons or promo codes outside of big sale events that you can take advantage of to help you save. You can significantly cut down on your overall back-to-school budget by planning your shopping around sales.
Don’t Buy Everything At Once
It can be tempting to designate one day to get all of your shopping done, but this could cause you to spend more than you actually need to. Different stores will have varying prices on the items on your list, and some may even have big sales at different times. Take note of the prices for the items you need and when they will be at their lowest, and split up your shopping to accommodate for the best prices. Plus, taking time between your shopping trips gives you the opportunity to have even more funds available for the next supply run, especially if you can align with when you get paid!
Use Gift Cards
If you have unused gift cards sitting around, those can come in handy to cover the costs of back-to-school shopping. Gather up all of your gift cards and check their balances so you know how much is on each card. Then you can determine which cards to use for which items. When you can, combine your gift cards with coupons and sales so you can save even more.
If you can swing it, consider stocking up on some of the more basic supplies you know will be needed throughout the year. Think of things like notebook and printer paper, pens and pencils, batteries, etc. For students heading to college, consider stocking up on personal items like soap and shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and other essentials. If you can afford to buy multiples, it’s always reassuring to know that you or your student will be set on the items that are needed to re-stock throughout the year.
Rent or Buy Used
Textbooks are an often expensive back-to-school item that can seemingly throw off your entire budget. Rather than purchasing textbooks new from the school, renting the textbooks or buying them used can save you a ton of money. Many school and campus bookstores offer textbook rentals or have used books, and there are several used bookstores and rental stores and websites. Some extracurricular activities require additional equipment, like sports equipment or musical instruments. Some schools allow students to rent equipment if they are unable to purchase their own, or there are other equipment rental sites and programs. Or, buying these items second-hand can significantly cut down on cost. Renting textbooks and equipment or buying them used can help you save so much more in your back-to-school budget so you can use that money for other expenses that won’t break the bank.
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