One of the things that is often neglected in the family budget is back to school shopping. These kinds of neglected costs often wind up costing more than we anticipate because we did not plan for them. When you go shopping without a plan and a budget you are more likely to buy on impulse, buy things that are too expensive, and buy things that you really do not need. This can all be avoided with a bit of planning and research on the part of you and your children. Before you buy even one pencil or go to one single store follow these simple steps and the experience will be easier on both your nerves and your wallet.
Back To School Shopping Tips:
Gather the troops - Back to school shopping is not something you can do by yourself. Your children will want to have input because they want specific items either because they really need them or because the wan to have the coolest backpack. It is important for children to have a say in the items you buy for that first day of school, but more important is for them to have an understanding of the costs of these items and the sacrifices that they might need to make. For example, you and the children can sit down and discuss which things they needed last year that you did not have or which things your purchased that they wound up not using. Then you can all discuss which items are really important to them to be both fashionable and functional.
Budget, budget, budget – Your budget should be iron clad, with no exceptions. As soon as you start spending a little extra on one thing it will lead to spending a lot extra on everything. Instead, set a realistic budget that takes into account those items you will spend extra on to get higher quality and those items that you can spend less on to be more budget friendly. Remember to leave a little money in reserve for ongoing expenses like replenishing lost or used up items. If you have a child who is absent-minded and tends to lose things have him make a list of everything and the cost of each item. In the event he or she loses something require them to pay all or a portion of the cost to replace it.
Set your list in stone – As you are discussing the back to school shopping with the kids come up with an absolute list. This will have to include all of the items that are required by the teacher and those that your child wants personally. The kids school list should be easy enough to find online, but do some research to make sure it is correct. Sometimes these lists are just passed on from year to year so double check with the teacher or some other parents to make sure that you really need everything that is on the list. You might be surprised how much is on the list that the teacher does not actually require students to purchase or at least purchase right away.
Shop at home - No, not on the Internet, first shop in your own closets and drawers. You, like most of us, probably have piles of pens, paper, folders, and pencils scattered around the house from the previous school year. Gather up all of these items and cross check them with your list. You might have plenty of pencils and pens so you can check them off your shopping list before you step foot into any store.
Buy used items - This is especially important for those students who have to purchase books. Look at online auction sites or on display boards for them slightly used. They are always loads cheaper and tend to have the added benefit of notes written in the margins. If you wear uniforms in class or in physical education class look for them gently used too, you’ll save yourself a bundle and no one will know the difference. You can also make a bit of money toward your school shopping by selling your used items. Keep that in the minds of your children and remind them that the better they take care of their things the more money you will be able to sell them for later.
Look for sales and discounts - Every big retailer knows that the school supply buying frenzy is a chance to make big profits. Because of that they will put certain items on sale for rock bottom prices to lure customers into their stores. You have to be careful though, because for every cheap item there is another item that you need that is not on sale. Look for coupons and sales on the items you need from each store. It will be worth shopping around to get the best deal, even if you have to take a day or two and hop from store to store to get the best deal. Be sure to take advantage of mail-in-rebates too, you would be shocked at how many of those go unclaimed. If you live in an area that has interest free days for back to school shopping, plan to do the bulk of your shopping then to get the most savings.
Keep shopping - If you always have the school supply list handy you can easily pick up the things you need whenever you come across deals. You do not want to overbuy, but keep in mind that you will need items through the year and in the following years. Once the school year has started the retailers will drop prices to clear out inventories, it is a perfect time to stock up on the cheap.
Everyone can stand to save money on back to school shopping. All you have to do is know exactly what you need to purchase and what you and your kids can live without. Once you make your decisions be vigilant about sticking to both the list and the budget. If you can do that and follow some of the tips listed here your back to school shopping will be a minor blip on your budget instead of a major budget bust.
This article was written by Timothy Ng who is a regular personal finance writer and part of the team at Credit Card Finder, a 100% free Australian credit card comparison and application service. Visit the Credit Card Finder website for more information on credit cards.