Back to School Shopping on a Budget

August 25, 2020

It’s that time of year that most parents dread… back to school season. The dread usually comes in because of all the extra spending that comes with it. But back to school shopping doesn’t have to break your bank. We have some great tips to follow to make your back to school shopping manageable and a lot less stressful for you!

Whether your kid is in elementary, middle, or high school, you can be sure that there are going to be costs to send them back to school every year. Even as many kids may be returning to school virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some supplies that just can’t be avoided.

Back to School Shopping Tips

While back to school shopping is a necessity, there are plenty of ways to shop smart. Below, we’ve outlined multiple tips to follow to make it a breeze this year, especially if you’re working on a tight budget.

Check Your Home School Supply Stash

This should be step #1 each and every year before any shopping actually begins. If you’re like most households, you have a stash of school supplies somewhere left over from years prior. Always check your home inventory first and use what you have before buying new.

Create a Budget and Stick to It

The stress of back to school shopping is usually stronger when you spend more than you should. There is nothing wrong with creating a budget for supplies, and in fact, it is encouraged. You create a budget for groceries, bills, and personal items; why should back to school shopping be any different? Once you get your kid’s supply list from their school, decide what is a safe budget to work within and stick to it! The rest of the tips below should be used to make sure you spend as little as possible to help you with this.

Shop Online to Avoid Crowds and Get Special Deals

It can be a real headache dealing with the mob of other back to school shoppers! If you aren’t comfortable with crowds, either in general, or because of the coronavirus, it’s probably best to do your shopping online. This can also score you some online-only deals. Just like you would in-person, shop around online to find the best prices on the supplies you need.

Shop Sales and Use Coupons

You might think this tip is a no-brainer – of course you want to shop sales! But in reality, a lot of people don’t actually do this or use coupons. For most people, it comes down to choosing convenience over cost. If you are out and see what you need, you buy it because you don’t want to go to other stores that might have better prices. But you may regret it later and wish you had just made the extra trip. Plan ahead to help with this. Look online or in store circulars to find upcoming sales and coupons. Compare prices and decide which top store/s you will buy your supplies from. Depending on the sale dates, you might be able to go to each store in one day, or you may have to space your trips out to hit the sales on the dates they’re available.

Don’t Feel Obligated to Buy New Every Year

One big reason for busting budgets during back to school shopping is from buying everything brand new. This simply doesn’t have to happen. If your kids still fit in clothes, coats, shoes, etc. from last year, why are you buying them a new wardrobe? If their backpack is still in great shape, do they really need a new one? Ask yourself who you are really trying to please by replacing perfectly good used items with new ones. Is this beneficial to your budget or your family? Probably not.

If your child’s school is providing extracurriculars this year, consider buying used musical instruments and sports equipment. These things can cost a ton of money brand new. Local resale shops, Facebook Marketplace, Buy, Sell, and Trade groups, and even Craigslist are great places to find affordable used items.

DIY Teacher Gifts

One thing that you might not even consider until it comes up is buying gifts for your kid’s teacher. While teachers are amazing and deserve to be appreciated, you and your child can do so within a budget. Sit down with your kid and get creative! Look up DIY teacher gifts online and you’ll be sure to find loads of options. And your child’s teacher will truly appreciate the extra time and thought that goes into a DIY gift.

Use Back to School Shopping to Teach Your Kids About Materialistic Value

While you are working hard to implement these tips to back to school shop on a budget, you might encounter some resistance from your child. Most kids want the newest, coolest supplies each and every year. This is the perfect time to have some serious conversations with your kids about material items and their value.

Having something brand new or in the hottest new pattern does NOT reflect a child’s value. While other kids their age might determine their own worth on the supplies, clothes, shoes, or whatever it is they have, this is probably not the belief you want your child to grow up with. Kindness, generosity, and a confident personality will get them much further in the way of making genuine friends who value them for who they are, not what they have.

Learning how to budget and spend within your means is a lesson your child is never too young to learn. If they can develop healthy habits and beliefs about money and self-worth now, it will only benefit them in the long run.

Hopefully, these tips can help to change the way you too, think about back to school shopping. With the change in schedules and routines, this might just always be one of those times that there’s a little extra stress in your house. Do what you can to make this time as easy and stress-free for you as possible so that you and your child can look forward to starting the school year off right.

If you’re looking for more ways to save, our blog features some great ideas, tips, and advice to help you along on your journey.