School Shopping for the Budget Conscious

backpackWe are now almost upon that time of year when the leaves begin to turn, backpacks are packed and school buses reappear.  If there are still a few odds and ends left to complete for back-to-school shopping, here are a few tips to make your scholarly dollar go further.

Double up

Retailers, of course, face an extremely competitive landscape. There are loads of sales on for back-to-school clothing to try to entice you to choose their store.

If you come across things like 2-for-1 as a sales incentive, buy one for now, and then buy a size or two up  for your freebie, so that you don’t have to start with a completely empty (and costly) closet when back-to-school shopping the following year.

Use the List

One of the greatest threats to staying on budget  with back-to-school shopping is the lure of all of those shiny, pretty colourful extras that are fun and cool (like extra markers, locker accessories, pencil toppers etc.) that fall squarely into the want over the need category.

Schools usually provide a list or guidelines at the end of the school year prior with a list of required school supplies, and usually include rather mundane (but necessary) things like pens, pencils, binders, erasers, etc.  Stick to the list and you will have what you need. Impulse buy and you will have a full junk drawer and an empty wallet.

Spread it out

While a number of school supplies are needed in the first days and weeks of school, some purchases can be spread out over time, so as to make the financial impact more gradual and manageable. It is worth revisiting your list, and seeing if some supplies are unit-specific, that may not appear until later in the school year.

Anticipate the Kid Factor

While you are shopping for items for them, and your children will undoubtedly want to have some sort of input for the supplies that will surround them at school, recognize that shopping of any kind with children in tow can often lead to unnecessary spending (or at the very least, dramatic, youthful declarations of “I need this”).

If possible, do your shopping (or at least a portion of it), without the kids in tow. You have a much better chance to sticking to your shopping plan and staying on budget.

Split the Difference

When kids really, really want some of the above-and-beyond school supplies, consider having them pay the bill for them. Even for the junior set, using money earned from allowance or gifts can contribute, which will both help defray your costs while teaching them a valuable lesson about the difference between need and want.

R & R

No, not the kind of R&R (rest and relaxation) associated with those lazy summer days. This kind of R& R (reuse and recycle) is a sure fire way to help make back-to-school shopping budget-friendly. Before you hit the stores, check through the house for things like pens, pencils, erasers and rulers.

Just because it is a new school year, does not necessarily mean that you need all new items. Things like backpacks and lunch bags, if still in good shape, can be used again.  You can invite your child to spruce up their bag by making zipper pulls, using fabric paint or appliques or putting on pins, patches or iron-ons.

Big Tickets with Lower Costs

If your student is older and needs bigger ticket items (like a computer for instance), consider purchasing  a refurbished model. Usually they are in pretty good shape, and can really help minimize the costs associated with this kind of purchase.