8 Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Expenses
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The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time. Get your kids off to a good start this fall with these tips on how to save money on back-to-school expenses.
Set a Budget
It is a good idea to set a budget for your known back-to-school expenses. Try thinking in terms of categories like clothing, supplies, sports equipment, registration fees, transportation costs, and the all-important ‘miscellaneous’ category. It is particularly important to set a budget for the most expensive items like book bags, sporting equipment, computers, cell phones, and calculators. Find the best deals on big ticket items, and pick up the little stuff like pens, pencils, and paper as you go along – they will be inexpensive no matter where you buy them.
Shop Online and Off-Peak
In order to score good deals, make use of the internet, and try to shop later in the season. Back-to-school items usually appear in stores around July and are regular price through the end of August. If you can wait until September to make your purchases, many back-to-school items will be deeply discounted in order to clear out inventory and make room for Halloween merchandise. In addition to shopping at your local stores, be sure to comparison shop for the best prices at the big online retail sites like Amazon.com.
For parents with growing kids, clothes shopping can get expensive. Take this opportunity to teach your kids about budgeting by bringing them shopping with you. Start with a list of pieces you’re looking for and then head to the consignment store first. There are great deals to be had on lightly used clothing, and you can sometimes find book bags and other accessories too. Next, go to the discount retailers in your area to find the rest of your pieces. It’s okay to pay full price for one or two very special items if you’ve saved on everything else.
Pens, pencils, paper, markers, scissors and other school supplies are usually deeply discounted around the end of August. These are small-ticket items, and unless you have several children you’re sending back to school at the same time, you don’t need to budget too much money for this category, or make any special shopping trips for these items. A good strategy is to check out the supplies on sale wherever you go to buy clothes and more expensive items, and slowly check things off your list as your kids find supplies that appeal to them.
Getting the little ones to and from school, in addition to bringing them to after-school and weekend activities, can be extremely time-consuming and expensive. Try carpooling with parents in your neighborhood. Even if you only have two families in your carpool, you will reduce the gas and time costs on your kids’ daily commute by half. Keep in mind that your vehicle’s mileage is the worst while the engine is warming up, so make use of the fuel economy you gain with a warmed-up car by running a few errands after dropping your child off at soccer practice.
Paying for school lunches is expensive, so try packing a lunch for your kids. Talk to your children about what they want for lunch so you can be sure you’re packing something they will actually eat. Then think about your organization tools. If your child is forgetful, you may be better off using disposable plastic baggies to pack their lunch and snacks. If your child is capable of keeping track of a lunch container, you could consider buying a lunch box with different reusable compartments to hold sandwiches, portions of snacks, and even a container for soups or smoothies.
Meal Planning at Home
With the bustle of activity that begins in the fall, it is easy for home cooking to fall by the wayside. Eating dinner out adds up quickly, so investing some time in making a weekly meal plan. Make a list of fast, easy recipes that your family likes, and plan a meal for each night. Do as much prep work as you can ahead of time so all you need to do is boil some pasta and top it with a prepared sauce, or start something in the slow cooker before you head out the door in the morning.
After school activities like sports teams and clubs are wonderful enrichment opportunities for your child at public, private, and charter schools like Peter Briger’s Caliber schools. But registration and equipment fees can get expensive. So, set a budget for activity costs, and work with your child to figure out how they really want to spend their time. Choosing just one or two activities per season will keep your costs down, keep your schedule manageable, and leave your child with time for studying and resting.
By setting a budget for more expensive items, planning your time wisely, and carpooling when possible, you can save time and money this fall. This will give you more family time on weekends, and a little extra spending money for family entertainment.
Photo courtesy of: PublicDomainPictures
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