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Back to School, Doesn’t (Have to) Mean Back to Debt

Back to School, Doesn’t (Have to) Mean Back to Debt

Are you sitting on your couch wondering how the summer flew by so quickly? We know we sure are! It’s already mid-August and you know what that means. In just a few weeks, the kids will be back in school. While it may be the last thing you want to think about right now, it’s time to get moving with that annual tradition: back to school shopping!

The 2018 Huntington Backpack Index estimated that back to school costs, including schools supplies and additional school fees, will cost $636.96 for elementary school students, $941.18 for middle school students and $1,354.47 for high school students. That is per student AND worst of all, it doesn’t even include new clothes. Yikes!

So, now that we know what we’re up against, the real question is, how can you get your kiddos ready for the new school year without putting yourself into high debt? Ask and ye shall receive!

Ten Tips to Help Save When It Comes to Back to School Shopping:

  1. Make a list, check it twice and don’t veer off it. Simple.
  1. Do a little supply roundup. What’s that you ask? A quick search through your home office, junk drawers, closets and kids’ bedrooms looking for supplies that you already have on hand, of course! Some may be gently used from last year and some possibly never used at all. You’ll be surprised what you may find, such as backpacks, unopened packs of pens and pencils, scissors, markers, unused or slightly used notebooks and much, much more! Put everything together in a box so it doesn’t disappear (again) before school starts and be sure to check it off your list so you don’t buy it unnecessarily (again).
  1. Assign a shopping budget, and stick to it! Now that you’ve refined your list, it is time to work out a budget so you can afford everything you still need for back to school shopping. This will allow you to prioritize what you have to go big on and what you might be able to get away with second-hand. A little savings here, a little spending there. All about the balance, baby!
  1. When in doubt, get techy! Download an app or two to help you out. You may be able to find some money-saving coupons on name-brand items your little ones “have to have or they will, like, literally die!” Perhaps you’ll discover a better way to buy; such as buying a five pack of notebooks is cheaper in the long run than buying only the three they need, etc. It’s also a great way to compare prices. If you plan to shop online, download the free Honey browser extension. It will show you all discount codes for purchases made on a site supported by Honey and it will also apply the codes for you, automatically! We’ve saved big using Honey in the past! You can also download some money saving apps if you’re heading out to shop. Shopkick, for instance, will give you exclusive deals for some major chain stores, while Yowza alerts you to coupons and deals in your geographic area. The Flipp app is another great tool for your back to school shopping needs. It allows you to create a shopping list right on the app and will show you local deals on those list items. #themarvelsofmoderntechnology
  1. The most expensive (generally) of all back to school and arguably the most important. We can’t have the only kids who grow like weeds, can we? Didn’t think so! So, where to start? How about here! Still get a newspaper delivered? If so, check out the sales inserts. The ads will make your head spin with so many retailers advertising these sales right now…back to school is pretty much Black Friday-lite, after all. Our local Wyoming Valley Mall has dozens of stores with back to school sales already in motion, from the staples of American Eagle and Express to the newest kid on the block and (new personal fav, we might add!), H&M. So, shop around! Compare prices at the different stores in relation to the same (or similar) item. You’ll be surprised at how much different pricing can be…
  1. Hit a few yard and/or garage sales on the weekend. Are there a few families that have children going off to college this year that you know? How about a coworker or friend? This is the exact time folks start cleaning out rooms with a treasure trove of things, including, yup, you guessed it: back to school stuff! You may be able to fill a bag with items you need or clothing they actually want (retro is so in right now!) for only a couple of bucks. It’s worth a shot, anyway. Worst case scenario, you find nothing for them, but something for you. Go on, treat yourself, you deserve it!
  1. Visit the Dollar Store. It’s a great place to find the basics, like pencils and cases, pens, crayons, markers, folders, binders, notebooks, so on and so forth. And, the price doesn’t get much better than a dollar, so wins all around!
  1. Buy enough to last the (entire) year! This is tough when it comes to clothes (the way these children grow!) but, when you’re shopping for supplies, such as pens, pencils, notebooks and the like, be sure to get enough to last the whole school year. As we stated earlier, larger packs are usually a much better bargain anyway. Plus, no stress of having to run out every other week because Billy keeps losing his pens faster than the trees are losing their leaves!
  1. Borrow or Swap. Yes, this can save you a great deal! Let’s say, your child requires a musical instrument, you might know someone who can lend you one. In need of some sports equipment? We’re betting you can borrow that as well. Remember the good, old days when we were in school and you wanted to play a sport? Maybe, you just needed to buy a new pair of spikes or glove. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore. With school budget cuts, participation in school sports and other school activities today is increasingly expensive. Luckily, there’s the great wide world known as the internet and social media! It never hurts to put feelers out there if you’re in need of a saxophone, hockey stick or even some school uniforms. Maybe a friend has some brand-new uniforms that their child quickly outgrew. You never know what you’ll find, so it’s worth the look. If you’re feeling really lucky, consider hosting a back to school swap party with your friends and family. It may be a fun and cool way for everyone to share some extra items and save along the way!
  1. Shop alone…if possible. Yes, this will sound admittedly strange. And yes, of course, your kids will want to come back to school shopping, especially when it comes to clothing. But, and this is a big one, you’re likely to save more if you leave them at home for this shopping excursion. It will be easier for you to stick to your list and avoid the temptation of impulse buys – you know those things your kids say they just can’t live without! (“But I need it!”) Yeah, we’ve all been there! If you want or need to bring the kids, then make it a lesson in budgeting for them. It’s a great opportunity to teach them how to shop with a list and (very tight) budget. After all, part of the job of parenting is teaching our kids’ life skills! So, as the adage suggests: two birds, meet one stone.

Follow this handy little guide and you’ll find yourself with back to school shopping done and your Choice One credit card still carrying available credit. If nothing else, it may help save what little sanity you have left after a summer of kids home, all day, every day.

That’s all for now! If you’ll excuse us, we have to buy more shirts, as we’re sure our kids have already outgrown them! Smh…

Keep an eye out for our weekly Choice Words Blog and daily social media posts for more helpful tips and tricks like this to help you make the smarter choice!


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