The back-to-school shopping season is just around the corner, but this year, things are looking a little different. Studies show that inflation is making a notable impact on how much families plan to spend to get their kids ready for the upcoming year.
While inflation is moderating compared to last summer, the cost of consumer goods is still higher than many households would like. Here are seven tips on how to get everyone equipped for the school year, without busting your back-to-school budget.
Don’t Buy It, Rent It
Students who can’t afford new academic technology can often find the items they need for rent. Check the local library for mobile hotspots, iPads, charges, USB sticks, headphones, calculators and more. Another great resource is the school itself. Many schools can link families to free school-issued laptops or other equipment. A guidance counselor is often a good contact for families who can’t afford to purchase these items new and want to borrow them from the school.
Avoid Impulse Purchases
Stores are preparing for back-to-school shoppers by creating displays and special deals designed to convince students and their parents to spend more than intended. The only way to avoid over-spending is to be absolutely ruthless when it comes to impulse buys. Explain to kids—and remind yourself!—that if it’s not on the list, it’s not coming home. Shopping in a single location, or within a limited time frame, can also be helpful in dodging unneeded purchases.
Savvy shoppers know that practically anything you’ll find at a big box store or online can usually be purchased from a secondhand store, for far less cash. Many thrift stores also have brand new items—including paper, notebooks, pens and art supplies—priced well below the going market cost. Along with shopping at secondhand stores, it’s also worth it to check out end-of-summer garage sales in your neighborhood back-to-school supplies, seasonal clothing and sports equipment.
Make It Fun
For a lot of students, back-to-school shopping is fun. It’s a tradition they look forward to, and starting the year without an annual shopping trip may feel like a bit of a let down. But there are other ways to recognize and celebrate the start of the year! Instead of spending a lot of time and money on back-to-school shopping, do a special back-to-school picnic for kids and their friends; spend a day reorganizing a closet or desk; or redecorate old folders and notebooks so they feel brand new.
Group Up to Save
Buying in bulk is a good way to save, but usually, one family doesn’t need an entire case of pencil erasers. Get together with other families and purchase back-to-school items as a group. The best way to do this is with a shared online document where everyone can compare what they need and how much. Then, designate one official shopper to purchase and split up items. Group bulk buying will take a little more work, but it can save everyone some major cash.
Earn Credit Card Rewards
Shopping with a credit card is one of the simplest ways to save money on your back-to-school needs. Make sure you’re using a card that offers cash back rewards. If you’ve been considering a new card, signing up for it just before a big spending period can nab you extra points and rewards. Just make sure that you’re paying off your statement in full every month. The last thing you want is to start the new school year by accruing interest on an unpaid balance.
Let Kids Help
Back-to-school shopping represents a good opportunity to talk to kids about finances. Start the conversation using age-appropriate vocabulary and information. There’s no need to scare kids, but you can be honest about items nowadays being more expensive than before. Ask for their input on money-saving ideas and have them help to create a list of priorities. They might come up with some smart ideas for back-to-school budgeting that you never would have thought about!