The start of the new school year can feel like a personal budget nightmare. Fortunately, there are quite a few tricks that can help you save money, instead of borrow money, when it comes to sending your children back to school.
The most important thing about getting your back-to-school shopping right is to have a plan. The biggest mistake you can make is to hit the shops immediately. In fact, going shopping comes much later on this list of back-to-school hints and tips.
1. Make a plan
Get all the supply lists from the school together and decide which items are a must before school starts. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything on the list before the first day of school. You can often find the best deals on supplies after the back-to-school rush is over. Also, it is unlikely that your children will need every item on the list during the first few days of school. So take your time to plan properly.
2. Do a supply sweep
Once you know what you need, find out what you already have. At least some of the supplies on the list might be lying around your house. Find all the stationery and supplies you have, compare it to the school’s list, and tick off the things you no longer need. Each item you have is one you don’t have to buy.
3. Help from your friends
With your updated list in hand, contact friends and neighbours for a supply swap. For instance, you might have a pack of notebooks that you bought on sale, but you’ll never use them all. Meanwhile, your friend might have several packs of pencils she’d be willing to trade for some of those books. Talk to friends and family who have school-aged children and see if they have extra supplies they’d be interested in trading. If swapping is not an option, how about pooling money with a few other parents and buy supplies in bulk? That way you all get to save.
4. Do your research
Do an online search for the prices of the supplies you still need to buy. Yes, this will take some time, but it will save you lots of money because you will be able to recognise a good price when you see one.
5. Talk to the school
Find out how the school can help. For instance, many schools have uniform shops where parents can get second-hand blazers, tracksuits, and other items. Your school might even have a supplies shop to make parents’ lives easier.
6. Draw up a budget
Once you have a plan of what you’re going to buy and you’ve done some research on prices, it’s time to budget. Budgeting for school supplies is a must. It keeps you from impulse buying and encourages you to stay on track with your monthly goals.
7. Sign up for store emails
Sign up for all the store deals, discounts, and newsletters you can. Many stores send out a weekly list of what’s on sale, and some even throw in discount vouchers or promotional codes too. It is very easy to unsubscribe once the school rush is over, so you don’t have to put up with a flooded inbox for long.
8. Find second-hand deals
You don’t have to buy everything new, especially electronics, which can be really expensive. Check websites for lightly used or refurbished (and deeply discounted) touchscreen devices, headphones, or laptops, and/or ask on Facebook or WhatsApp groups for items that people might want to sell.
9. Shop on your own
Leaving the kids at home will make your back-to-school shopping easier, quicker, and cheaper. If you’re shopping based on the best price, you probably won’t buy brand names or the latest action hero or princess-themed supplies. But when your kids tag along, you may end up giving in and spending way more. Remember, you have a budget to stick to.
10. If you have to borrow money…
…be smart about it. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you might need emergency loans to cover unexpected back-to-school expenses. The same golden credit rules apply: borrow only as much as you need; make sure you understand the loan agreement before you sign it; only borrow from a registered credit provider; get the personal loan deal that is best for you, and repay the loan as fast as you can to save on interest.