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Back to School Money Saving Tips
The first few months of school can be crazy. I remember it as a teacher and I’ve experienced it as a parent. There are a bunch of events, everything has a cost, and you feel like you’re running out of money pretty quickly.
Depending on how many kids you have in school, your costs can add up fast. There are definitely ways to save money during this crazy Back to School Time that won’t leave you pinching pennies or feeling like you can’t get something you need.
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Your costs will vary depending on your kid’s age so take the tips below and adjust them to fit your needs. In our home, my stepson will be going into 6th grade (eep! Middle school!) and my 2.5 year old is starting preschool for 3 days a week! That means we have a variety of costs that will come up to keep on top of but luckily, we can start to plan ahead.
Tip #1 Create a Budget for Back to School Shopping
The first thing I suggest you do is to create a budget for all things you consider Back to School. Spend 15-20 minutes and write out all of the costs that you remember from last year. I use a Trello board so that I can easily just reference what we spent last year but, if you don’t have a record anywhere, just estimate to the best of your ability. You are bound to forget things but, that’s okay, we’ll build it into the budget.
Once you’ve created your list, go back and highlight the things that are absolutely essential (maybe you have to pay the school for supplies upfront or need to pay for sports fees) so that you can really look at what you NEED vs what you WANT.
Now, don’t get me wrong I am not Scrooge, but I am someone who is trying to pay off as much debt as possible and I need to do an ego check every once and while to see where I'm spending unnecessarily. I’ve seen moms spend upwards to $500 on back to school clothes and supplies and, while your kids might need some clothes, you need to determine how much is reasonable to spend on them.
Determine what you will be spending per kid on clothes and stick to it. Take the money out in cash and don’t go over that budget. If you have older kids, you can make it a teachable moment for them and give them the money and let them try to find deals. This was a lesson that we taught my stepson since he currently is obsessed with name brands and realized very quickly that Walmart has just as nice things as Nordstrom.
Tip #2 Save Money By Shopping Online
Speaking of clothes, there are a TON of ways you can save money when creating your kid’s back to school wardrobe.
If you’re going to shop online, I highly suggest signing into your EBATES account before hand. EBATES will give you coupon codes and cashback just for doing the shopping you are planning on doing.
Also, whenever you log into a website, if you wait about 30 seconds, most stores will have a pop up that offers you at least 10% off your purchase. Make sure you give them your email (you can always unsubscribe later) so they can send you the code before you shop. It may take up to 24 hours for it to come to you so just sign up a few days before you plan to use it.
If the site you are on doesn’t have a coupon code readily available, you can always just search google and find codes for discounts or free shipping. I try never to pay for shipping if possible!
Tip #3 Shop discount or thrift stores for great deals
You can also get great deals in the stores if you shop smart. If you have an idea of the sizes you need, you can shop clearance racks in advance to grab stuff that they will need.
It’s tougher because my kids grow either super fast or super slow and I am never 100% sure what sizes they are in. My daughter has been in 2T for almost 2 years and my stepson has gone up 4 sizes this year!
Make sure you check out stores like Burlington Coat Factory or Ross where you can get nicer quality of clothes and some name brands for super cheap. Consignment and thrift stores always have great finds and things you would pay over 50% more for if you bought them brand new in a store. Really ask yourself if your kid needs a red shirt or if they need a red Ralph Lauren shirt.
Tip #4 Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Creating a capsule wardrobe is also a super smart way to stretch the clothes your kids wear while not having them in exactly the same thing. We know the truth, your kids (and probably you) only wear about 10-15% of what you own. So why not utilize the stuff you love and get rid of what doesn’t serve you.
The first step to creating your kid’s capsule wardrobe is to inventory what they have. Take a few hours and inventory all of their closets and dressers. I create a Trello board for all of the clothes so that I can know exactly what’s there when I need to shop or plan outfits.
Make your kids try things on (which we both know they’ll love), pack up what’s out of season, donate or sell on the Facebook Marketplace (extra clothing budget money!) anything that’s still in pretty good shape and really make it to they can see everything and, nothing is being stuffed in a drawer.
They do not need a whole month of new shirts but just a few staple pieces that they can mix or match. Take the time in advance to create 2-3 weeks of a clothing plan for them. Write down which tops and bottoms you want to mix and match and make sure you’re getting your bang for your buck when it comes to clothes.
Tip #5 Do a Clothing Swap
If you have friends who also have kids around the same age as yours, see if you can organize a clothing swap. Have everyone come with over with gently used clothes and you can all swap what you already have.
I find for my stepson, this type of thing works better if he has no idea where the clothes came from (the same when I shop at consignment). I just take the clothes home and wash and fold them and tell him, “oh I got you these for back to school”. He just assumes I took that tags off to wash them and we’re good to go.
And while I know teaching him about being thrifty is important (and we do it very often in this house) I also know that I need to pick my battles and this is one I don’t feel like fighting.
BONUS TIP! Don’t buy clothes right away!
So often, we’ll do all of our back to school shopping weeks before school starts to get it done and 3 days into school, our kids come home saying they want something else that they saw their friend has.
If you can get a handful of new things and then wait a week or so, you can get the ‘back to school’ clothes on sale because stores are making room for the next season!
Don’t let back to school have you turning to credit cards and stressing over how you’ll be able to get all the things your kids ‘need’. Remember what matters, what they may really need, and stick to the budget. Once you decide on that budget DO NOT steer from it!
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