Getting kids ready for the new school year can take a bite out of your household budget, and–if you have more than one child–it can turn into a financial crisis. Learning how to shop for school supplies on a budget is an important step in easing the strain when money is tight. It lessens or eliminates having to tell your child you can’t afford the supplies he wants and needs. Once you master the process, you’ll find yourself using the basic concepts in your other shopping categories, and the savings will multiply throughout the year.
Check with your child’s school. See if he has a list of needed supplies before the school year begins. Many teachers use the same list each year; you can ask before the school year ends and get a jump start by having the entire summer to shop.
Ask your child before you plan your shopping trip if there’s something special he’d like that’s not on the list. In today’s world of superheroes, you might find he has his heart set on a certain backpack that’s not within your budget range. By finding this out ahead of time, you can set aside money for a few weeks or help him save for it himself.
Purchase the Sunday newspaper each week of the month before school starts to take advantage of all the sales. You will save more than the cost of the paper by shopping wisely (and can clip the food coupons for an extra bonus).
Estimate the amount of supplies your child will need for the entire year. For example, if the teacher has recommended five folders for the first semester, buy at least ten so you’ll have the second semester covered as well. Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money.
Make a list of three or four stores that are fairly close to each other. Itemize the needed supplies that are on sale at each store. Include the price offered. List the same item multiple times in case it’s out of stock at one store, or you find it in an unadvertised sale at another. Plan on making at least two trips during the month to get the best prices on all sales.
Schedule your trip early in the day of the first sale date to get the best variety of items. A store will advertise “quantities limited” in its ad. If you wait until later in the week, you’ll miss out on the prices you want.
Plan your shopping trip by the locations of the stores to utilize your time (and gas) efficiently.
Realize that the stores aren’t making a profit on the advertised items, and they may be hard to locate. If you can’t find an item on your list, ask a sales clerk where it is; if an item is out of stock, ask when the next shipment will arrive. Get a rain check if it’s allowed.
- Check the quality of items such as backpacks to gauge whether they’ll last the entire school year.