Back to School & How to Avoid Busting Your Budget

As summer draws to a close, parents everywhere shift back into a school year mindset. With that shift comes the annual ritual of shopping for back-to-school supplies and clothing, which can often reach into the hundreds of dollars per child. If you’re trying to stay on budget and not let this derail your savings or debt paydown efforts, what are some effective ways to keep costs to a minimum?

First, it may be too late this year to put this plan into place, but you may want to consider some sort of sinking fund for back to school. Similar to Christmas, we all know that back to school comes around, like clockwork, once a year, so why not prepare for it in advance? Throw a few dollars per month into a savings account specifically for back to school, and when August/September rolls around, that money will be there, waiting for you. Ahh, can you feel the decrease in stress just thinking about it??

If it’s too late to save up for back to school shopping, you may have to get strategic on your shopping. First, even though it’s tempting, with all of the sales, to stock little Jimmy or Susie up for the entire year on school supplies, the reality is that they most likely just need enough to get them going at the start of the school year. Pare down the amount of supplies you purchase right off the bat, and spread the spending out throughout the school year. 

Second, you may receive a list from your child’s teacher of required school supplies to help stock the classroom. If this is the case, also speak with the teacher, and let them know that you will purchase what is needed to get them going at the start of the year, but you would prefer to make purchases throughout the year, if possible. See if they are okay with you not purchasing it all up front.  More than likely, they will not only be okay with it, but just grateful to receive the supplies for their classroom!

Finally, check to see if your state has a sales tax holiday or similar incentive for back to school shopping. In the state of Florida, there is an annual back to school sales tax holiday (for 2019 it’s August 2-6), where certain items purchased as back to school supplies are tax-free. You can find all of the information and a downloadable list for Florida HERE; depending on where you live, it may only be 6 or 7%, but’s it’s something!

As always, be mindful of the difference between wants and needs. Our children may think they need the latest and greatest brand name shoes, jeans, (fill-in-the-blank here). As a parent, use this as an opportunity to teach your child to know the difference between a want versus a need. If they are dead set on something, and are old enough to, have them earn the item through a summer job or helping extra around the house. In the long run, the lessons learned will be much more valuable than the latest fashion trend or electronic! 

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