Did you know that according to the HuffingtonPost.com, back to school spending this year, “is expected to average $634.78?” (Article Here) This is an average amount. But how do families actually afford this? Another article at CNBC.com say that, “No matter how much you earn, getting by is still a struggle for most people these days. Seventy-eight percent of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck, up from 75 percent last year, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder.” (Article Here)
The spending is not just on pencils and erasers but also on clothes, accessories, and electronics. In order to come out of back to school season economically unscathed, I believe you need a plan. The idea is that we don’t want to go into debt to pay for back to school items. Here are some tips to help stay on track this year,
Set a Budget
You have to be realistic. What can you truly afford this back to school season? Be honest. If you know that you will be short is there any way you can earn more now? Maybe you can sell some older clothing on Craigslist, Facebook or other sites? Can you work a few hours overtime? Maybe Jr. can find a little side job cutting lawns or weeding for the neighbors? The summer is not over, there is time for you or the kids to earn more.
Do An Inventory
While the kids are home this summer, do an inventory. Have the kids try on their clothing. What fits? What needs to be replaced? Are there items that can be cleaned or repaired? What about lunchboxes, backpacks, jackets and accessories? Maybe items can be passed down to a sibling or maybe to a cousin… If you are crafty, can an item be repurposed? I love to get repurposing ideas on Pinterest! Also look around for some of your school supplies you have already bought and are hiding in the cupboards, drawers and closets. Kids do not need a new ruler every year! The can reuse scissors, unsharpened pencils and pencil boxes. It is fun to have new and cute but when you are trying to stay on a budget, these things can be reused.
Make A List
Make a list of needs from your inventory. Maybe even categorize them by what is an immediate need and what is needed later. If it is warm in September and October where you live, can you spread the needs out over a few pay checks? Maybe buy the new shoes this month and the jeans next month? Make a plan on what you will buy and when you will buy it. Write down your plan.
Be Honest With Your Children
Tell them what they can expect you to provide. If you have money for a Walmart shirt and they are expecting a Gucci shirt, help them understand what you can afford. I try to focus on what we can provide, not on what we will not be buying. Remind kids that you are doing your best to provide needs and hopefully occasionally wants as well. It is a good lesson to learn now the difference between needs and wants. It is a part of life.
Decide Who Will and When to do the Shopping
You know your kids. If it is impossible to bring them in the store without weeping and nagging, don’t bring them. If you think it is a good experience for them to see the budgeting aspect, try that. Whatever you do, don’t go in without a plan. Have your lists ready: school supplies, clothing , etc… Also, consider taking cash. Leave the credit cards at home.
Consider Resale Shops
You can find a lot of good deals at Goodwill and other second hand shops. Consider taking your list there first. I often find many school supplies at Goodwill. These are unused supplies like bags of pencils, packs of paper, and notebooks. Many resale stores also have special days like military discounts, senior discounts, etc… Always ask before you purchase.
Consider Online Shopping and Stack Savings
Check online for deals on kid’s clothing. Sites like Retail Me Not can help you get coupon codes to apply to your online order. Stack the online savings by also using a points reward portal like Ebates or Swagbucks. These can help you earn cash back on purchases.
Stay Away from Advertising
Advertising is everywhere! Consider turning the TV off when the Target and Old Navy commercials come on. Sometimes kids only know the NEED something after the see a commercial for it! Help them to avoid advertisement overload. Keep the catalogues tucked away, for you to comparison shop with, not for them to look at.
Enlist Help, if Needed and Available
If the kids have a grandparent who wants to buy them some school supplies, let them! There are also usually back to school fairs where you can get free items. Take advantage, if you need. Maybe at some point, you will be able to return the favor to someone.
After The Kids are Back to School.. Reassess
What went well this Back to School Season? What didn’t? Were there any unexpected expenses? Write these things down so that you will remember for next year. Reassess your budget. Is there a way to save a little every month for back to school spending? Could you take a couple hundred dollars out of your tax return and save it for back to school? Keep some notes for next year and continue to work on your back to school plan.
Going back to school can be pricey. And in today’s world, it seems like people have less and less to go around. Being proactive on these matters can help you stay out of debt and stay on track with your monthly budget.
What about you? How do you “do” back to school season? I would love to hear!!
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