How to Keep Back-to-School From Breaking the Bank

by MoneyNing

My oldest daughter just started kindergarten and I’m quickly realizing school is going to be more expensive than I’d anticipated.

Though I was ready for some expenses, like clothes, lunches, and supplies, others – like the classroom cleaning supplies and tissues – caught me by surprise.

Here are the ways I’ve been trying to keep back-to-school costs down:

Buy A Year’s Worth of Supplies Now

School supplies aren’t going to be any cheaper than they are right now. Stocking up for the whole year (while crayons are a dollar a pack) makes more sense than paying three dollars in a month.

You don’t have to go overboard either. Just grab a couple extras of what your children regularly use. This way, you’ll have them on hand when it comes time to replenish.

Don’t Pack Prepackaged Food

If you’re going to be packing your kids’ lunches, then skip the prepackaged items.

Since my oldest daughter is a picky eater, we’ve opted to pack her lunch instead of buying it. I went to the grocery store to stock up on lunch foods and I was blown away by the price of prepackaged lunches.

For instance, a pizza lunch kit containing three small pizzas, a mini Butterfinger bar, and a Capri Sun ran about $8. Considering how little food is included, the price is pretty ridiculous.

Instead, it would be much cheaper and healthier to avoid prepackaged food altogether. I’m packing my daughter some variations of grapes, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, carrots, cheese sticks, and a juice box.

Does Your School Offer Free Lunches

Some states have programs that let lower income folks pay for school lunches at a reduced rate. Be sure to look into them and see if you qualify. I heard California is even offering free lunches to every student. Be sure to take advantage if you live in that state. I don’t know if the portions will be enough, but perhaps you can pack half a lunch and have your child get the other half. Anything helps.

Getting New Everything Each Year Isn’t Mandatory

I know some parents who like to get a new set of everything for their kids every year. New backpack, new pencil case, new supplies, and everything else they could think of. The adults justify it by saying that this helps the kiddos get excited for the school year. I think all it does is get the children to expect a sweet shopping trip each year while having little to no effect on how they will do at school. That’s just me though. You may still like to do that, but just know that this will put a huge dent in your wallet.

Buy Off-Brand Clothes

Unless you’re the parent of a teenager who demands name brands (I remember those days), then you should be able to get by on a relatively low clothes budget.

I mean, honestly: how many new clothes do kids need for school? Not a lot.

Chances are all your child’s new school clothes are going to look just like the old ones after a couple of wears. There’s no need to break the bank.

I got many of my daughter’s school clothes off the Walmart clearance rack, and her shoes came from BOGO sales at Target. The truth is she’s had so much clothes gifted to her by family members that I could’ve gotten away with buying her only new socks.

Don’t feel bad if your budget doesn’t allow for a brand new school wardrobe. After a week in school, kids will forget all about their new clothes anyways!

Any back-to-school veterans out there who can give me more savings tips?

Tagged as: Budgeting, Kids and Money, Shopping Smart

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