Back-to-school season can be hard on the budget. Book bags, lunch boxes, markers and notebooks, not to mention cool locker accessories and new-fangled binders—you don’t have to know new math to understand that the sum of all these items equals an empty wallet.
Before you take out a small loan to finance school supplies, try these money-saving ideas.
Take inventory. Before you head to the store, look around your house to see if you already have any of the items on your child’s school supply list. Contrary to your kids’ opinions, things like rulers, pencil holders, calculators and lunch boxes don’t need to be replaced every year.
Shop around. You’re likely to find inexpensive crayons, folders and binders in August, but they may not all be at the same store. Many retailers will offer a few big bargains to lure you in, hoping you’ll buy all your supplies from them. Watch the circular ads closely, then head out to grab the best buys from each store. If you shop at a store with price matching, make sure to take the ads.
Buy in bulk. For most families, 10 reams of loose-leaf paper is overkill—unless you team up with friends. Find a few families to join in, and have a back-to-school shopping event. You may be able to find some great deals both online and off.
Take advantage of tax-free holidays. Many states offer tax-free days around the start of the school year. Find out if your state has one planned. Shopping on the right day could save you as much as 10 percent.
Only buy what you need. All those fun extras can be tempting. Colored pens, locker accessories, sticky notes and the list goes on. But chances are, your back-to-school budget doesn’t. To avoid overspending, determine how you’ll handle your child’s requests for non-essentials before you head out to shop. You’ll be better prepared to say no to impulse buys.