Today’s school supply prices at big brand stores might have you wondering when everything got so expensive. Well, you’re not imagining things. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of school supplies has increased by nearly 24% since the pandemic.
Making sure your kids have all they need to succeed in class can be tricky this year. So give yourself a break — check out this back-to-school shopping guide. From money management advice to shopping tricks, these tips can help cash-strapped parents balance their budget and their kids’ needs.
Make Two Lists of Supplies
By now, you may have already received a list from your children’s new teacher that details the supplies they expect their students to arrive with on the first day. Before you head out with this list in hand, you’ll want to make another list of your own.
Remember at the end of the school year, your child came home with a bag of stuff cleared out from their desk or lock. Can you salvage any of these supplies? Reusing calculators, markets, and pencil cases can save quite a bit of money.
Set a Budget
Now you know what you have to buy new, you can sit down with your budget. Your spending plan reveals how much money you have available to spend on back-to-school shopping.
Like most parents, you don’t have unlimited cash to spend on supplies, so addressing your limit can help you identify your priorities. This way, you can focus on what really matters, and avoid what’s just a fun frill.
Don’t Tap Your Emergency Savings
Your emergency fund is a safety net for urgent, unexpected expenses you can’t delay or avoid. If you drain your fund on supplies, you lose this safety net until you can manage to sock away more savings. And there’s no telling if you’ll run into a true emergency before you rebuild your savings.
It’s up to you whether you want to take that risk. Many parents do, knowing they have other safety nets available in case they run into an unexpected expense. They may have room left on their credit cards or feel comfortable taking out online loans.
One of the benefits of getting your loan online is convenience since you can fill out an application and get a reply as soon as you realize your emergency. You won’t have to wait for specific business hours to arrive before you see if you qualify.
Leverage Credit Card Rewards
Do any of your cards offer reward points? Now’s the time to redeem what you have available. While some accounts deliver cashback or gift cards you can spend on whatever you want, others let you purchase merchandise using your points. Be choosey here — redeeming for merchandise is usually not the best way to use your points.
While it’s tempting to equip your children with shiny new calculators and clothes fresh from the rack, this is the fastest way to wrack up your bill. Instead, shop new when appropriate. Visit consignment shops, thrift stores, garage sales, and online marketplaces for better deals on essentials. No one but your family will know your kids are wearing second-hand clothes.
Shop New at Discount Stores
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t find everything on your list at a second-hand shop. When you eventually have to buy something brand new, don’t be afraid to shop from dollar stores and online-shopping megastores like Temu or Amazon for the best deals.
Hopefully, this simple guide can help you balance your budget at this tough time of the year.