- Families with children in elementary through high school expect to spend $890 on back-to-school clothes and supplies this year.
- It’s possible to save substantially by planning and shopping smart.
- Shopping early – or late – can be keys to saving.
As most parents know all too well, shopping for back-to-school clothes and supplies is an expensive proposition. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, consumers are expected to hit a new record on back-to-school spending this year: Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $890.07.
Here are some strategies to make it easier and hopefully cheaper, to equip your student for the new school year.
1. Shop early. Many schools provide supply lists for each grade at the end of the school year, and most post them online. If you don’t already have it, or can’t locate one, call the school and request it. Carry the list with you so you can purchase items when you spot a good deal.
2. Think ahead. Review the list and consider purchasing items your child will need next year as well as this year when they’re on sale – at least smaller-ticket supplies. The chances of the supply lists changing are small.
3. Shop late. Many items go on clearance once school starts. And with so many different school start dates, sales can run over the course of a couple of months. If your child doesn’t need a particular item right away, try waiting for the markdown.
4. Look for exchange opportunities. Your neighbor’s 10-year-old may have outgrown the mermaid-themed lunch bag, but it might be just right for your 6-year-old. Talk to other parents about exchanging (or selling) clothes and gear that no longer work for their kids.
5. Save money on uniforms. If your child attends a school requiring uniforms, consider purchasing some clothing a size larger than needed this year, and keep for next year. You also can check consignment stores and local online marketplaces.
No uniforms? Try visiting second-hand stores in well-to-do neighborhoods for excellent-quality (and sometimes designer) clothing at good prices. Plus, in most parts of the country, it generally will stay warm enough to wear summer clothes well into fall. Take advantage of late-summer clothing sales, and even consider buying basics in a few sizes up for the following year.
6. Do a home inventory. Check home offices, the kitchen, and kids’ rooms to see if you have any needed items at home. With work and school happening much more frequently at home the last few years, it’s possible you’ll have supplies on hand your children can use. Keep in mind, too, that some supplies and gear don’t always have to be replaced year after year. Think carefully about whether your child really needs a new backpack or pencil case.
7. Buy in bulk. Whether it’s tissues, hand sanitizer or notebooks, you may find that it makes sense to buy some items in bulk if you’re buying for more than one child. Or split the cost with other parents. Be careful, though. No matter how great the deal, be realistic about what you buy. Will your child really need 50 pens or 100 folders?
8. Take advantage of tax savings. Several states offer tax-free days where the sales tax is waived on school supply purchases (may be up to a designated limit). Check to see if your state is one of them at the Federation of Tax Administrators.
Don’t forget to set a back-to-school budget before you start shopping (online or in-person). Many parents talk about “feeling the pinch in the budget,” but not so many have written out a simple budget.
Kids can help, especially if you explain choices. Understanding that they could either have a new designer pair of jeans or a day visiting a favorite museum during fall break could sway their decision – and help them understand more about the basics of personal finance in the process.
As with many things in life, a little planning goes a long way when it comes back-to-school shopping. It truly is possible to send kids back to school fully prepared – and leave parents with a little breathing room in the wallet.
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