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Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget

It’s that time of year again! As a kid, you looked forward to going back to school; new classes and teachers, reuniting with old friends and most importantly, new clothes and supplies. Now as a parent, going back to school takes on a whole new meaning when you are paying for everything. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, total spending for back-to-school is expected to reach $24.9 billion with the average family planning to spend a whopping $630 on electronics, apparel and other school needs. This year, keep these money-saving tips in mind so you get your kids everything they need without breaking the bank.

Start at Home

Take inventory of what you have. Decide what can be used again and what needs to be replaced. Start with clothes. Sort through what fits, what needs to be replaced and what can be handed down or donated. You might be surprised that you can sell some of the items that your children no longer wear to the local resale shop, making you money before you spend. Take inventory of last year’s school supplies as well. Have your kids gather all those extra – and expensive – markers and unused notebooks. Keep anything in good condition.

Get Organized

After figuring out what you already have at home, make a list of new items your kids need. Check with your child’s school about recommended supplies. Teachers often let you know what is required vs. what is nice to have. This can differ from your student’s list of “must-haves,” including the latest Minion backpack. If your kids join you on your shopping trip, make it a teaching moment by explaining the plan is to only buy what is on the list. Beware of special store displays that are designed to entice you to fill your cart with unnecessary items.

Make a Plan

After finalizing your list, research which stores offer you the best value and check to see who is promoting back-to-school sales and promotions. Also, look up weekly sales flyers and coupon sites for printable savings as well as blogs that round up the best savings. Lastly, check to see whether your state has an upcoming Sales Tax holiday. These holidays vary by state, but can offer big savings if you time it right.

Where to Shop

After checking online, stop by the big box stores where they offer back-to-school deals throughout the summer. Also, check out your local dollar store to pick up the basics, such as notebooks, pencils and paper. For anything left on your list, make sure you shop at stores that offer price match guarantees. This means that if you bring in a sales flyer or your receipt from a previous purchase, they will match the lower price.

What to Avoid

When shopping for back-to-school, avoid the lure of the branded items that your child will tire of quickly. While you kids may love Frozen this summer, they may have a new favorite character by Thanksgiving leading them to beg for expensive new supplies. Instead, opt for a more durable backpack and lunchbox brand in a basic color and sprinkle in Elsa and Olaf in more dispensable items like pencils and notebooks.

Lastly, when looking at bigger price tag items like calculators and laptops, seek out the good quality products that come with a warranty vs. buying on impulse because an item may be on sale.