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Back To School Budgeting

posted on Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We’re all soaking up the last precious weeks of summer, yet back to school reminders are found everywhere. They hit you with the sobering reality that summer is almost over, and your budget is about to take a nose dive.

While you can’t stop fall’s arrival, you can prevent back to school shopping from destroying your budget.  With a little planning, you can glide right into back to school with little stress on you and your budget.

According to the National Retail Federation (NFR), the average family with children plans to spend $630 on back to school this year.  Do you know how much you spend on back to school each year?

Before you can set a budget, the first step is to determine what your child needs for clothing and school supplies.  This is a great time to teach your child about the difference between needs and wants. Sure they might want those $100 Miss Me jeans, but they could have three pairs from another retailer for the same amount of money.

The following steps can help you determine what they really need.

  1. Closet Clean Out: Spend a few hours one weekend to investigate your child’s closet. You might be surprised by what you’ll find. Let your child help you decide the items that are too small or they just aren’t willing to wear. Then, a make a short list of what they need for the school year.
  2. School Supply Redo: When you child’s backpack comes home on the last day of school, go through it and pull out any of the school supplies that can be reused. Organize them in one place, so that when August rolls around you can cross reference the school supply list against what you saved from last year. Try it; you’ll be amazed by how many items can be used again. Folders, scissors, pencils, earbuds, etc., all have a longer life expectancy than one school year.  
Once you know what you need, make a detailed list, set a budget, and then start shopping.  Here are a few tips to help you save money and your sanity.

  1. Start Early: If you have ever been to one of the large box stores in August you know that many people leave their school supply shopping to the last minute. This means crowded aisles and low inventory. Make sure you get what you want and save your sanity by shopping in July when supplies first come out. Starting early also spreads your back to school budget over two months.
  2. Shop During Sales Tax Holiday: Iowa’s sales tax holiday is August 7-8. Clothing, footwear, and school supplies (up to $100 per item) are all tax free. This one might not save your sanity, but it will definitely save you some money. Many stores also save their best sales and promotions for this week.
  3. Buy Used: If you have a child that isn’t particular about their wardrobe, shopping on EBay, Craigslist, or Facebook swap sites are great places to find gently used clothing for less. Or if you have a daughter with an affinity for Miss Me, find them used for half the price.
  4. Sell Last Year’s Clothes: Take your child’s gently used clothing and sell it on the aforementioned sites. Put the money you earn toward this year’s back to school spending.  Begin posting your items early in August to catch people before they start shopping.
  5. Wait: Purchase needed supplies and a few clothing items to start out the school year. Then, wait until fall clothing goes on sale to purchase the remainder. Let’s face it, the weather will be warm and all of those pants and sweaters will hang in the closet until October.