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Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget

BY Rachel Cruze TIMEAugust 16, 2022 PRINT

Back-to-school season: Whether you and your family have been looking forward to it or dreading it for weeks, it’s officially here. And let’s just say back-to-school shopping will be expensive this year. Not only do you have a lot to buy, but there’s also that whole inflation thing happening.

But even though your list may be a few miles long, these five back-to-school shopping tips can help you prioritize your spending so you can save money—and I think we all want a little more of that right now. So, let’s get started.

Make a Back-to-School Budget

Once you’ve created and prioritized your list of back-to-school needs, it’s time to make a budget. Remember, a budget gives you freedom to spend. When you make a budget and stick to it, you’re telling every single dollar of your hard-earned income where to go (and where not to go).

As you set up your budget, make a new budget category for school-related expenses that happen every single month, like after-school care or club fees. Then, make a separate budget line item for the other back-to-school expenses that will be a one-time thing, like three-ring binders and Lisa Frank-themed notebooks. (Let’s bring those back in style, OK?)

See What Clothing and Supplies You Already Have

At the end of last year, your kids cleaned out their cubbies, desks, or lockers and brought home a very interesting mix of trash, refrigerator-worthy drawings, and still-useable supplies. If you kept any of that good stuff, can you use it this year?

Same with clothes. Don’t feel like you have to buy a whole new wardrobe before school starts, no matter how much your kids want you to. Shop your kids’ closets first. What still fits? What doesn’t? Are there any hand-me-downs from your older kids? All this sorting will definitely take some time, but in this case, time spent is money saved.

Blank,Wooden,Clipboard,With,Paper
Certain items, like clipboards, poster board, planners, and pens, are just as good at dollar stores as anywhere else. (Marie Maerz/Shutterstock)

Use Dollar Stores for Some Back-to-School Shopping

If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of dollar stores—and they’re a game-changer for back-to-school shopping. Sure, you’ll see plenty of junk, but you might be surprised at some of the hidden gems you find.

For one, they often get random shipments of name-brand items that sell at other stores for up to four times the dollar store price. And certain items, like clipboards, poster board, planners, and pens, are just as good here as anywhere else.

Take Advantage of the Deals

Get. Those. Deals! Consignment shops, garage sales, thrift stores, and Facebook Marketplace are all great places to find used items. And, as if Goodwill’s prices aren’t good enough already, they usually have at least one half-off day every month.

And here are some other ways to get a good deal: Take advantage of back-to-school sales, use your favorite store’s app to get special offers, or find stores that price match (like Office Depot, Michaels, Kohl’s, and Target).

Limit Your Kids’ Extracurricular Activities

This one’s not just for back-to-school shopping—it’s something to keep in mind all year long. Kids today can join clubs and programs for pretty much any and every interest you could possibly imagine. But letting them do everything might end up costing you everything in your bank account.

If you want to trim the extra spending, think about cutting back on the extracurriculars. See what your family budget can handle, then limit the number of extracurricular activities you’ll take on this year. It’ll save you time and money.

And this one’s big for me: Don’t forget about putting your kids to work. Yep—we’re talking about having them earn a commission. When they see the value of hard work in exchange for those hard-earned dollars, they’ll understand why doing five extracurricular activities this fall just isn’t in the budget.

It’s All About That Back-to-School Budget

You guys, getting ready to go back to school can be stressful, but it’s so much better when you follow these tips—especially the budgeting part. So, before you start a school supply shopping spree, be intentional about creating a budget, finding the deals, and having conversations with your family about what you’re prioritizing this school year.

For more tips on creating a budget that will help you stay in control of your money during back-to-school season and all year long, check out this article!

Rachel Cruze
Rachel Cruze is the host of The Rachel Cruze Show and The Rachel Cruze Show Podcast, and a best-selling author, including “Love Your Life, Not Theirs” and “Smart Money Smart Kids,” which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. Follow Cruze at RachelCruze.com and on Twitter @RachelCruze.
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