How to Shop for Back to School on a Budget

by Nakisha Wynn

When do you start to feel the pressure of back to school? For some of us it starts even before summer break begins, while others leave everything to the last minute. Whichever camp you’re in, or somewhere in between like most of us, the costs of back to school can be eye watering. Here’s how to do back to school on a budget.

If you are on a budget it is a good idea to start planning and even shopping as early as possible. When you receive the list of supplies that your child needs, think first about what you already have. Don’t feel like you have to scramble to the stores immediately but plan your purchases out in advance.

By preparing ahead of time you can gather together what you already have, figure out exactly what each child needs, research prices and make a list of what to buy and where from.

Waiting until the week before school resumes to sort out supplies, buy schoolbags, and shop for clothes in a rush is a bad idea and will only add to the stress and the costs. Taking the time to prepare means you will be ahead of the game and can enjoy the summer with your kids without having to rush around.

But what about the costs? Here are some ideas to help trim your back-to-school budget.

Have a List

Have your back to school shopping list with you at all times. You can write it in your planner or create a digital list on your phone. Make sure you are shopping from a list though. This way you can shop over a few weeks; you can check your list if you spot a deal, and you can keep an eye out for sales. Sometimes deals show up at the most unexpected time and place.

Don’t Bring the Kids

If you plan on going out to get supplies, don’t bring the kids. Children have a way of honing in on the most expensive and flashiest school supplies available. If there is something they really want to choose themselves, schedule a shopping trip specifically for that item. It’s a great idea to just shop online to avoid all of that. This way they can choose the agreed upon items for themselves. I know my kids always get to pick out their own backpacks, lunchbox and one pair of shoes.

Shop Back to School Sales and Clearance

Shopping online gives you much more flexibility without the need to leave your home. Many retailers offer amazing sales during back to school shopping time. They have the option to use various coupon codes and cash back sites for additional savings. Rakuten offers daily deals in addition to cash back on qualifying purchases.

Pick a Great Lunchbox

This will help you save money all year as your kid won’t need to supplement their lunches. The best lunchboxes on the market today are thermal and soft-sided. They keep food cool and safe for consumption.

Avoid using zip-lock baggies and choose some reusable plastic containers with leak-proof seals instead. A thermos is a nice idea for hot meals during cold winter months. Keep in mind that kids love fast, easy food.

Choose the Right Backpack

Choose sturdy backpacks that are well made and durable. Kids put their schoolbags through some pretty rough treatment, and the “cool” bags often end up with rips and tears midway through the school year.

Back to school backpacks can often be picked up cheaply towards the end of summer. Try the camping section of a larger store. Kids will love the zippers and pockets on these backpacks, and they are better for their backs too.

Buy Basic Back to School Clothes

Stock up on new clothes for school during the summer. Shop for pieces that kids can mix-and-match together, so they can layer up as the weather gets cooler.

A kids capsule wardrobe of ten different shirts and seven pairs of pants in interchangeable colors and styles works well. Try to avoid trendy clothes or anything with film, fashion or cartoon characters on as it may well be something they don’t like any more six months down the road.

On the other hand, being stylish is important to teens, so you may want to be a little bit more flexible there. You could allow your teen to select one or two pieces of clothing that are on trend as a bit of a compromise. Or you could give them an allowance each quarter to buy new clothes.


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Avoid Popular Character Items

Avoid buying the gear with the latest cartoon character on it. While your child may love that film or cartoon character right now, in six months that same character will fall from favor, replaced by another. They may end up hating their emblazoned lunchbox and schoolbag!

Shopping back to school on a budget using these thrifty ideas and shopping ahead of time, will save plenty of time and money. You can cut corners on expenses and still provide your kids with what they need to start the school year right.

Back to School on a Budget

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