Have you ever looked at your child's back-to-school supplies list and thought, "Does going back to school shopping have to be this costly?" Unfortunately, the answer is yes... it can be. From the essentials to the seasonal trends, the costs can add up quickly for most families.
If you’re worried about your back-to-school budget, don't stress. With the right approach, you can squeeze a little more out of every dollar. Here's how to get the most out of your back-to-school budget and make sure your kids have everything they need.
Prioritize the Essentials. Your first step is to create a budget and take a good look at your lists. Break all the items out into essentials and non-essentials, or extras. Start buying your essentials early, as some things will sell-out closer to the first day of school. If there are any items on the list that fall into trends or nice-to-haves that you don’t need for the first of September, create a budget that helps you plan to purchase these items over the course of a few months.
Beat the Rush. Organize your list into phases. Buying items ahead of time (such as the essentials, noted above), when you can take advantage of sales or buying in bulk, allows you to store items for future use or when younger kids grow up. It’s also more cost-efficient. Some of your purchases can be kept for later, when prices come back down from the back-to-school craze. Pro tip: If you do buy bulk, consider cost-sharing with other parents, which will bring your total spend down even further.
Take Advantage of Sales. Keeping an eye out for sales is the best way to stay on budget. Online retailers often offer discounts for specific supplies, promo days, or for new customers and email subscribers. When shopping online you can compare prices with ease; always do your research and check out standard retailers’ online shops (like Staples, Costco and Superstore), and dedicated online retailers (such as Amazon).
Reuse. Reduce. Recycle. Dust off last year’s backpacks, find survivors among the school supplies, and repurpose things where you can. It saves you time and money and is eco-friendly, too. If you have friends or family members with older kids (who may have grown out of certain items, or graduated), inquire about any potential gently used hand-me-downs or unused supplies. Community groups on Facebook, and Facebook Marketplace, are great places to check out. Often people will post their overstock and gently used items for little-to-no cost for others in the community. Tip: Always practice caution when meeting people offline or buying from online second-hand sellers; meet in a neutral public location.
Consider Swaps or Second-hand. Organize a school supplies swap with family, friends or neighbours. It can be a win-win situation – you can declutter while saving pennies. Your friends and neighbours might appreciate the opportunity as well.
When it comes to new clothing, what’s old is new again! It’s definitely on-trend to shop second-hand right now; both for the cache of that treasured vintage find and for the health of the environment (in response to fast-fashion issues). Encourage your kids to check out pre-loved items and thrift-stores and get into the thrill of the hunt for unique gems.
Leverage Student Discounts. A number of retailers provide student discounts. Encourage older kids to always carry their student ID cards to take advantage of businesses that offer a percentage off of items such as clothing, food and even entertainment. In Canada, the SPC (Student Price Card) is a membership card that has an annual fee but allows students to save money at a wide variety of establishments.
Going back to class can be a hectic time. Make it easier on yourself and your family by planning ahead. Research, prepare and then buy.
In addition to making a budget – and sticking to it – you can arm your kids with tools to succeed by reading up on how to motivate and encourage them (at any age) throughout the year, as well as how to manage stress. And have a great semester!