Summer is quickly coming to an end. Students are going back to school, and for many, that means it’s time for some back-to-school shopping. As a kid growing up, I remember how much I loved the shopping part of “going back to school”. I wanted to buy the coolest gear, mainly so that I could show off to my friends. Those pencils and folders from last season just wouldn’t cut it when you’re trying to earn cool points from your peers. Luckily, my parents saw through the silly thinking and were more practical than my 7-year-old self. That meant I couldn’t get the limited edition Hello Kitty backpack set! Darn – why couldn’t I just have the whole Sanrio store?!

Although I wasn’t too happy about reusing “old supplies”, I’m glad my parents taught me early on not to be wasteful. They always reminded me, “If it still works, you can use it.” With all the effective advertising and marketing out there, people have been conditioned to believe that they actually NEED to have new stuff in order to be prepared for school. In reality, that’s not necessary. There are probably plenty of things lying around the house that can be re-used. Even if you need to make a few purchases, there are still ways you can save money and get what you need for the new school year.

Here are three back-to-school budgeting tips that can help lighten the financial strain.

  1. Start by looking for supplies at home. Many schools provide a required supply list, but it doesn’t come cheap when you buy everything new. Before hitting the stores, start by looking for supplies at home. I bet you’d be surprised to find pencils, erasers, binders, and other materials hidden in drawers, nooks, and crannies!

  2. Involve your child in the budgeting process. Once you’ve found some supplies at home, make a list of the remaining items you need. Then, sit down with your child and set a back-to-school shopping budget. When you’ve determined how much money you will spend, put that amount (in cash) in an envelope. Now, you’re ready to go shopping! At the store, make a game out of “supply-hunting” with your child. The goal is to get everything on your list while staying within budget. When the cash is gone, the shopping is done. Your child will have also learned a few important lessons:  1. Don’t waste.  2. Plan early and set money aside for your specific purpose.  3. You can’t spend money that you don’t have.

  3. Don’t buy everything at once. Kids may outgrow some of their clothes and shoes from last year, but there’s no need to buy a brand new wardrobe every season. Families should look out for sales throughout the year and spread out their purchases. Buy a few things at a time, and it will feel like less of a financial drain as opposed to buying everything all at once.

Before the school year starts, sit down with your family and create a budget that takes into account your income, monthly expenses, and savings. This budget will dictate your expenditures and take the guesswork out of available spending for back-to-school items. When you plan early and shop smart, you’re bound to save money and start the school year off right!