School’s out for summer! Even though summer just started, it’s not too soon to start planning for September. The cost of back to school shopping can add up fast if you aren’t prepared for it. Whether your child is starting school for the first time or is headed back for their third or fourth year, these tips will help you stay on budget.
1. Make a list of school supplies
Most schools will issue a supply list later in the summer, but you may be able to call your school earlier in the summer for a sample list. Additionally, some office supply stores will carry supply lists for local schools. Even if you don’t have access to the official list, you can start brainstorming your own list of what you think you might need. If your child is going to school for the first time, remember that you’ll need some evergreen supplies like a backpack and a lunchbox.
2. Inventory your current school supplies
Once you have a good idea of the supplies you’ll need for the year, take the time to inventory any supplies you currently have around the house. You might have supplies that didn’t end up getting used last year, so check for back to school savings before you even head to the stores.
3. Raid your closets
It’s time for a fashion show! Pull out your kids’ fall and winter clothes and have them try them on. While they still could grow over the summer, you can start to sort out what clothes don’t fit anymore and will need to be replaced. Consider donating any clothes that don’t fit anymore.
4. What’s for lunch?
While it won’t end up on your back to school shopping list, if you’re budgeting for the fall you should start thinking about a lunch plan. Are you going to pack every day, let your child buy lunch in the cafeteria, or a combination of both? If they’ll be buying from the cafeteria, you can easily add up the cost of lunch for the month. If you’re packing lunches, approximate how much you plan to spend each month.
5. Set a spending limit
Now that you have an idea of what you’ll need for the year, set a spending limit. Making a strict back to school budget will help keep you from buying unnecessary extra clothes or supplies.
6. Split up your savings
Once you have your budget set, split up the total amount across the three months of summer. This will help you save gradually, rather than facing a big expense all at once. Pay yourself first! Once you have determined how much to save each month, you can make an automatic transfer to your savings account. Put budgeting on autopilot and chill by the pool.
7. Keep an eye on the sales
There are plenty of sales right before school starts to help you save, but they can mean packed aisles. You can keep a lookout for back to school savings all summer, particularly for less specific items like clothing. If you haven’t already, sign up for email newsletters or text alerts from your favorite stores. Also, see if your state has a tax holiday during the summer to keep costs down.
8. Go second-hand
When your kid will likely grow another couple of inches this year, is it worth shelling out for a whole new wardrobe? Consider visiting a store that sells gently used clothes. You don’t have to sacrifice style, and you can keep to your back to school budget.
9. Pay in cash
Set yourself up for success. When you’re doing your back to school shopping, only bring cash with you. That will help you stay on budget and head back to school with an A+ in savings!