Like clunking machines gearing up in basements across the land, the approach of a new school year is getting families making their preparations for the start of school. This inevitably involves shopping -- you’ve almost certainly spotted the sales. But before you rush out and start spending, a few tips might just make the process a bit easier (and maybe a bit cheaper too).
1. Remember -- it’s a teachable exercise
Back to school shopping is a great way to teach your youngster about smart money management. Involve them in every step of the process, from beginning to end. Get them looking at items online, comparing between different stores. Walk them through the steps in this post, and possibly offer them a small cash prize (or extra item) if they find good deals.
2. Make lists
Before anyone looks for anything, draw up lists of what’s needed. Go class-by-class. See if you already have the necessary supplies. Do a “need” list first to make sure nobody ends up empty handed when school starts. Nothing is too basic to write down, including stuff like pencils, pens, erasers and paper. After that’s all done, if there’s money left over, start thinking about the more fun stuff, like clothes, apps, gadgets and so on.
It’s also important the items on your list match any list sent home by the school. Teachers can sometimes be very specific about what is required for their class, so make sure you’re syncing up with those requirements.
The ultimate goal is to know what you’re looking for before you start shopping. This makes it harder to indulge in expensive impulse shopping. Indeed this is a good tip for adults too!
3. See what you can buy in bulk
A box of pens or a pack of printer paper will almost certainly be cheaper if purchased at a big-box office supply store than at a drug store. Take the same approach to buying other bulk items like socks or binders. Food items too, especially snacks, are often cheaper when bought at a bulk store. Keep in mind that just because it’s at a bulk store doesn’t mean it’s automatically cheaper -- watch those prices!
4. Put a value on recycling
Students may not like hand-me-downs, but you’d be surprised what you can get from friends and family if you ask around. Indeed your student may have items from the previous year, such as binders and notebooks, that can be used again. When shopping for school, as with shopping for anything, saving money is a valuable skill.
5. Understand the value of quality
There may be some things your young shopper just has to have. But it may also be that whatever that item is, it’s cheap, flimsy and likely to be discarded soon. It’s important to remember that getting good value for your purchases is a value all on its own. The last thing you want in your life is another round of back-to-school shopping in the middle of the school year!
6. Minimize conflict
There may be rifts, so pick your battles. Emphasize compromise. After all, this is a time when your young students will be exercising a bit of personal sovereignty -- put another way, they’ll be feeling like a bit of a grown-up. So give them a bit of maneuvering room in making their choices.
7. Always be on the lookout for deals!
Join social media groups, scan the flyers, check the group coupon sites. Be aware that some states offer “holidays” from sales tax before school starts. Think about putting off shopping until after school starts, when the prices drop. Put your kid on it! Ask them every day if they found anything new.
Saving money is a fantastic habit to have, and back to school shopping is a great time to get that practice going!