How to Plan Back to School Shopping

Finally, an attack plan for the best of us.  Don’t let back to school shopping get you down.  Planning is the best way to get the most for your time and money. And when it comes to back to school spending, the goal is often to do it as quickly and as cheaply as possible. While it may seem too soon to start thinking about back to school shopping, it is right around the corner. Planning now will save you later.

Take a Look at What You Usually Spend

Take a look at your bank and credit card statements for the past few years to assess how much you usually spend. This information will help you set a budget for your children this year. Remember that school materials and supplies should be included in the budget along with clothing.

Take a Look at Your Current Budget

It’s quite possible that your financial situation is different than it was last year. Take a look at your current budget. How much can you afford to spend on back to school shopping this year? You may be able to spend more or you may have to spend less.

Additionally, knowing how much you spent last year can help you make good budgeting decisions this year. For example, if you know you spent $300 last year and can only afford $200 this year, you may be able to shift a few things in your monthly budget to find that extra $100.

Make a List of What You Need

How much have your children grown? What clothing do they need and what do they want? Make a list of the items they need and start prioritizing. Ask your children to get involved in this process. They can try last year’s clothing on and let you know which items they want to keep and which items are no longer appropriate.

What Stores Will You Visit?

As it gets closer to that inevitable shopping day, consider taking your child to thrift stores. Many used clothing stores sell brand name items that are in ideal condition. If your children are brand conscious, they may enjoy being able to purchase more for their money while still looking cool.

Give Them Cash

One of the best ways to stick to your budget and your shopping plan is to hand the budgeted amount to each child. Children have a tendency to go overboard when they’re shopping. They find that one brand name sweatshirt and spend half of their budget on it. Then they cry a few weeks later when they’re forced to wear the same shirt over and over again. They make much smarter buying decisions when they get to hold the cash in their hand. They tend to want to get more for their money – it almost becomes a game for them.

Decide when to Go

Finally, set the date. You can save a lot of money if you go school shopping about a month after school starts. Items go on sale and children are able to buy what the cool kids are wearing at school at a much lower price. If they absolutely must have a new outfit for school, then buy one outfit for that first day and then commit to taking them shopping in a few weeks when things go on sale.

 

Making the Grade: Back to School Shopping with Your Grade School Child

Because you can never have too much back to school information, here’s another bit of advice when mapping out your march to victory….It’s that time of year! Your child needs school supplies and clothes. Where do you start? How do you pay for it all? Here are some tips for making the grade with your grade school kid this year.

Dressed for Success

Your grade school child may not have the picky tastes of a teenager, but he or she is going to need some new clothes this year. Go through last year’s clothing and find out what fits and what doesn’t. This includes shoes, socks, and underwear, too. Grade school kids can grow really fast! Here are some more ideas for clothes shopping with your grade school child.

* Plan your shopping trip for a day when you don’t have to rush, and when you don’t have anything planned the night before. Being rested and ready helps everyone’s mood, and so does being able to take your time.

* Call the school where your child will be attending and make sure there aren’t any changes to the dress code. If your child will be attending this school for the first time, then find out what the dress code is.

* Keeping it simple helps a lot. Depending on his (or her) age, he will be better able to dress himself as the year goes on. Having easy-to-fasten clothes can help a lot to facilitate this process. Tough buttons (or lots of buttons), lacings, belts, and small head-holes can make dressing a frustrating experience. Go for clothes with large head-holes, zippers, and easy (and few) buttons.

School Supplies

Moving on to school supplies – like the clothes, it’s a good idea to check with your school and teacher to find out what specifics might be required. Some teachers specify brands, colors, and so forth. Here are some other tips for shopping for school supplies with your grade school child.

* Go generic on writing items like pens and pencils. Getting fancy, unique writing implements only leads to competition in the classroom and the possibility that your child’s fancy pens will get stolen. Unless the teacher requires otherwise, go with standard #2 pencils.

Markers should be water-based, and crayons are usually needed in packs of 16. Consider a box to store and carry these small, easily-lost items.

* Erasers are always needed in grade school. A large, pink eraser like you had in school is a good purchase. Some erasers that fit on the ends of pencils are inexpensive additions, too.

* Your child’s school may not supply paper like they did in the old days. Find out from your teacher/school if you need to supply ruled (lined) paper, which will differ from teacher to teacher and grade to grade.

* Notebooks come in many forms. Your grade school child will probably need some spiral-bound ones as well as some binders. Think slim and trim so the notebooks fit in your child’s desk, no matter what type is required.

You also might want to purchase some dividers or pocket folders to help your child stay organized.

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Money-Saving Ideas for School Supply Shopping

A lot of time we talk about back to school shopping in the context of clothes, but haven’t you walked into the office supply store with that list of supplies from the teacher and walked out feeling a whole lot poorer?  Whether we like it or not, school supplies can get expensive. From clothes to pencils, it can cost a bundle to send your kids back to school. There are some things you can do, though, to make it less financially painful. Here are some money-saving ideas for school supply shopping.

What’s Shared and What’s Not

Back when you were in school, your school supplies were yours, and usually consisted of pencils, pens, notebooks and binders, and paper. The school provided things like dry erase markers, paper towels, and chalk. Schools are cutting their budgets these days, though, so you may find yourself buying supplies that will be shared. Check your local school system’s website or give them a call and find out what supplies will be pooled and which ones will belong to your student.

Save on the Shared Items

If you know an item is going to be shared with the whole class, such as binders or dry erase markers, skip the fancy ones. Go with the more generic, cheap types.

Speaking of Sharing…

Consider buying items in bulk with a group. Find other parents and families who can go in with you to purchase supplies. They tend to be much cheaper in bulk, and buying large amounts and dividing them up can help save some money.

Coupons

Look for coupons on manufacturer’s and retailer’s websites, and check your local newspaper. Combine the coupons with existing sales, and be willing to move on to the next retailer for the next sale rather than buying all your items at one place.

No Sales Tax

Many areas have a “no sales tax” day when you can buy items without this added tax. This is a good time to buy anything big, such as a small fridge for your college student, or electronics. The bigger the item, the more you save on sales tax. (This is another good time to buy in bulk with friends and family.)

Don’t Forget the Dollar Store

Do you have a store where “everything’s a dollar”? If so, go there! You might be able to find a lot of school supplies for a fraction of what you’d pay at a major retailer.

Start Early

There are a couple of advantages to starting your back-to-school shopping early. For one thing, you are more likely to get the supplies you want and need while stock is still plentiful. Another advantage to starting early is the sale prices. May stores have school supplies discounted early, while it’s still in the middle of summer.

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