The Christmas decorations have been taken down and in their place, the back-to-school specials and sales are going up. January can be a tough month financially, even for the budget savvy, so a few saving tips and tricks can go a long way to helping parents afford to send their kids back to school kitted out with everything they need.
1. Do a thorough inventory of what you have and make a list of what you need
Before you even contemplate buying everything from the list, make a detailed inventory of what they have (and what you have lying around the house) and what they need. This applies to necessities like books, stationery, clothing and extra-curricular requirements (sports equipment, music instruments, accessories, etc.) Why buy a brand new set of pens when your child already has more than enough? And why buy your younger kid new textbooks when he/she can inherit them from their sibling? Making a list not only shaves down your expenses on unnecessary duplicates, but also keeps you focused on what your child needs.
2. Exploit those back-to-school sales and specials
There are specials, promotions, and discounts everywhere, so start your shopping with some solid research. Which stores are running a promotion on books and stationery? Which outlets are offering discounted school shoes? Where can you purchase sporting equipment for less? Don’t spend a cent without doing your research and beeline for the places that will give you more for less.
3. Involve your kids in the back-to-school planning and shopping
A lot of parents refuse to let their kids anywhere near the back-to-school shopping because it can turn out to be one long procession of: “Mom, can I have this?” or “But dad, I really need that!” Having said this, involving your kids can introduce them to planning, budgeting and thrifty shopping. Get them to help you make a list of what they need and stick to your guns about what you can and cannot afford to spend. If they want a more expensive version of an item, then they can contribute the difference by dipping into their own pocket money or by performing chores around the house. If they can’t afford to or don’t want to perform the necessary work... well, then it’s a valuable life lesson, isn’t it?
4. Plan your timing
Once the panic has died down, retail outlets will be getting rid of their school items for a lot less to make space for the next round of specials (Valentine’s Day and Easter). Avoid peak times and try to do your back-to-school shopping way before or after January – think about getting it done halfway through the year instead, for example, you might also consider buying notebooks and stationery in bulk so that you get them cheaper and always have extras on hand.
5. Be focused and strict
Do your research, make your lists, and then be focused and strict when you finally hit the stores for back-to-school shopping. You’re on a budget so your priority is to get your child everything they need with just a little leeway for the odd treat. If necessary, take cash instead of your credit card so that you’re not tempted to spend more than you’ve budgeted for.
At the end of the day, your kid won’t fall apart if she doesn’t have the latest Justin Bieber-themed notebooks and your son’s ability to perform on the soccer field won’t be compromised by more affordable gear. Your job is to buy them what they need to do well at school and if their wants aren’t met, you can always give them an actionable plan to bridge the gap between your budget and theirs.