Back-to-school shopping is expected to top $72 Billion this year down slightly from last year according to the National Retail Federation. With prices continuing to put pressure on the family budget, many families are looking for ways to cut costs. Here are several strategies that can help to offset those price increases.
Have a Game plan – Decide ahead of time what you are willing to spend on back-to-school clothing and supplies before you head out. Take a few minutes to review school supply lists provided by your child's school and make a list of any items that are needed. By making a list you are less likely to overspend on items that are not needed. You also may want to think about leaving the kids with a sitter while you shop for supplies to avoid any potential conflicts about what cartoon character pencils to purchase. Stick with the standard supplies and you can't go wrong.
Network for Savings – You probably know someone at work or through an activity or club your child belongs to that always seems to know where the best deals are. Reach out to them, they are a tremendous resource that may be able to save you both time and money shopping for clothing or school supplies.
Choose Your Battles – Set clear boundaries and expectations at an early age with your children about what types of things you are willing to spend the Family budget on. Being consistent with your expectations will go a long way to minimize the conflict around back-to-school shopping purchases or any purchase for that matter. Regardless of how often you communicate your expectations with your children at some point they will express disagreement with you. For example, you may want to reconsider giving your teen a little more flexibility regarding clothing options with the added stipulation that they must conform to school dress codes.
Partner With Your Child for Savings – If your teen feels they won't make it out of 7th Grade unless they have that pair of designer jeans, why not have them contribute part of their allowance or savings to the purchase price of the jeans? Show your child how to compare the price and quality of several brands of jeans and then let her make the decision which pair to buy. Even if your child buys the designer jeans, you are teaching them about the value of money and how to comparison shop. Partnering with your child on purchasing decisions allows you to instill important money management skills that will last a lifetime.
Pick Up Bargains When You Find Them – By watching for bargains throughout the year you may be able to pick up items on your back-to-school shopping list at bargain prices.
Recycle Past Year's Supplies – I have a drawer at our home for school supplies that I keep stocked throughout the school year so most of the supplies are already taken care of. Backpacks are another major back-to-school purchase and buying a quality neutrally styled backpack means it can last for more than one school year.
Shop Tax-Free in Certain States – Some states offer Sales Tax Holidays where you can purchase back-to-school items tax free.
Readers: What strategies have you tried to save money on back-to-school shopping?