Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to mean a major subtraction from the family bank account.
Whether you’re outfitting a first-grader with a pencil case and backpack or shipping off a college freshman to that first tiny dorm room, you can prepare your kids for the new school year without kissing most of your available cash goodbye.
Take a time-tested tip from teachers: Less is more.
As you draft your lists, assemble your budget and gird yourself for the inevitable post-shopping cries about forgotten items, these strategies from real classroom vets — teachers — will help you spend less while getting your kids ready for the school year.
Make sure to shop with your student instead of giving them money and turning them loose, Co-shopping is very beneficial to developing a financially capable student.
Plus, it’s a chance to teach ‘opportunity costs. The idea that if you have that, you can’t have this because we budgeted X.
There’s likely to be some give and take, but if you have a list you can always go back to that.
When it comes to school supplies, some parents believe that more is always better.
The truth can be just the opposite.
Stick with the basics say most teachers.
With younger kids, a lot of those supplies will be stored, shared and used together for the group, rather than individually, so the 8- or 16-pack of crayons or pens can be more practical than the deluxe 64-pack, she says.
For a lot of parents, back-to-school shopping is a box that needs to be checked and you’re done.
But that’s a big mistake for your wallet. Instead, buy in bursts and enjoy the process. And whether your kids are going off to first grade or college, realize that you don’t have to get everything at once.
Don’t forget to peruse sales fliers to get the best buys once you have the back-to-school list.
Don’t forget to check office supply stores as they can have the best deals a lot of times.
You also can consider going in with a few other parents to form your own co-op getting supplies in bulk and splitting them up — along with the costs.
Another place you may not have considered for back-to-school shopping, especially for college dorms, is “Mom-and-Dad Mart.”
Outfitting a college dorm is a great chance for the parents to have a yard sale where the student is the ‘purchaser’.
Use it as an opportunity to clean out the stuff in your home — everything from dishes to that second coffeepot.
Computer equipment typically accounts for the most expensive items for school. But there are deals to be had if you know what to ask for.
Not only do some companies offer special prices for students, but many schools — including some middle and high schools — have deals with manufacturers to provide their products at a discount.
Even if your school doesn’t offer any discounts, you may not have to pay full price as makers often offer special prices to teachers and students.
No matter what the amount, make sure to compare those prices with the offerings in your favorite online or big-box electronics store, too, where discounts could be even greater than what the school or company offers.
Don’t bother paying sticker price on books.
In middle schools and high schools, books are often provided. But if your student wants to supplement the official class reading list, you might want to check e-book offerings.
And don’t forget used bookstores, as those prices can be better than online sometimes.
Note to college students: The campus bookstore isn’t the only option for textbooks. And it may not even be the cheapest.
Shop online and your costs can be one-half or less.
Something else to keep in mind: Publishers often print international editions of their textbooks (in English), which differ only in little details, like color or cover. The prices can be significantly cheaper.
If you have a class outside your major and don’t think you’ll need the book later for reference, consider renting it instead of buying it.
The cost is one-half to one-third the cost of buying the book.