Money Health

Five Back-to-School Shopping Tips that Save Money

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Due to state budget cuts, many American families have been forced to take on more school-related expenses that school districts can no longer afford. In addition to clothes and backpacks, parents need to ensure their children come to school equipped with pencils, crayons, glue, paper, and other supplies. They need enough for themselves, plus more to share with their classmates.

The cost of these supplies can really add up. In fact, it’s estimated that parents can expect to spend at least $1,000 per child for back-to-school essentials. Fortunately, there are as many ways to save money as there are items to spend it on. The following back-to-school shopping tips that save money will help you get started.

1. Don’t buy what you already have

Before you buy anything, take a survey of what you already have. Your house might be bursting with office supplies you can repurpose for your children’s needs. Just because something isn’t brand new or was originally meant for the office doesn’t mean it’s not acceptable for use at school.

Not only does using what you already have save money, it reduces clutter in your home, freeing more space for other purposes. While it may sound like a no-brainer, ensuring you don’t buy what you don’t need is one of the most important back-to-school shopping tips that saves money.

2. Ask friends and family members for supplies

The people in your life, especially if they have older kids, almost certainly have extra items lying around their houses. Ask your friends and family for extra supplies they could contribute to your back-to-school haul.

Arrange a supply and/or clothing swap for parents at your kids’ school, or at your church or some other group you’re affiliated with. This is especially convenient for schools that require uniforms, as frequently a kid will wear a uniform for just one year before needing a new one. These events not only save you money and give new life to things people aren’t using, they can stimulate deeper connections with your community. Preparing for school can be stressful for families, but turning that preparation into an opportunity for socializing can make it a little more fun.

3. Pay less for big ticket items

Yes, paying less for expensive items seems almost too obvious to be included in a list of back-to-school shopping tips that save money. However, by planning ahead and doing your homework, you’ll be able to lower your expenditures.

Do some research to find the lowest prices on pricier items like graphing calculators, computers, or specialized attire. Compare prices at big box stores online, get on mailing lists for updates on sales or coupons, and use coupon and cash back apps to keep abreast of deals at stores that carry the things your kids need and earn money with what you spend.

Another strategy is to purchase things at off-peak times of the year, such as toward the end of the school (for use the following school year). This may not be practical for clothing, since may outgrow it (or want something more stylish) by the time fall rolls around, but it would make sense for items such as backpacks and computers.

4. Save money on extracurricular activities

It’s not just the classroom that feels the hit of budget cuts. Extracurricular activities like sports and music require special equipment for participation, and parents are having to foot the bill for this stuff more and more.

You can find tons of used sports equipment on websites like Craigslist, LetGo, Facebook Marketplace, and Play It Again Sports, which also has brick-and-mortar stores in some cities. Decathlon is a sporting equipment store that offers beginner-level equipment for much cheaper than the more specialized or high end items professionals or more experienced sportsmen use.

When it comes to musical equipment, consider renting instruments from local stores or looking for used items online. These tactics can save you a bundle, as some of these items can be quite expensive purchased new. Until your child has reach a committed level in their musicianship, they don’t need a high end saxophone.

5. Thrift it

Children grow so quickly, their clothes often don’t have a chance to wear out before they no longer fit. This works in your favor when shopping for children’s clothes at Goodwill, Salvation Army, Value Village, or whatever your local second hand or consignment chain might be. Additionally, many local charities and churches in towns all over run their own thrift stores, so shopping at one of them is a great way to give back to your community.

Thrift store shopping can be fun for the whole family, and can allow your children to get a little more creative in their dressing. You can help them to cultivate a personal style rather than just wearing that graphic T-shirt from Target that every other kid has—and at a significant discount.

Back-to-school shopping has come to rival Christmas shopping in terms of family expenses. But, by learning new back-to-school shopping tips that save money, you can gather all the supplies your family needs to have a great school year without breaking the bank.

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Kate Robinson Beckwith is a freelance writer who loves to use her way with words to help people get a better understanding of their finances. She lives in the Bay Area where she spends her weekends taking in culture, making books, and hiking with her husband and her goofy three-legged pitbull mix.