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Tips for Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget

August 10, 2015

Have rising costs got you stressed about back to school shopping? Advice on what to buy, what to save, and when to head to the stores.

Gone are the days when a notebook, pencil, and sneakers were all a child needed to head back to school in the fall. As summer winds down, back to school shopping is a looming anxiety for parents who are trying to stay budget conscious. There are a number of budget considerations you will want to make before you hit the stores this year, taking into account the increased costs of school supplies, clothes, etc. this year.

Increasing costs

When budgeting for elementary, middle, and high school age children this year, parents might have a tough time, as costs for supplies and extracurricular activities have increased 5% while wage growth continues to slow. According to the Huntington Bank’s annual “Backpack Index,” which examines classroom supply lists issued by schools in the Midwest and provides details on cost; parents can expect to spend upwards of $650 on elementary age school supplies, $950 on middle school supplies, and $1,300 on high school supplies.

The increase is a result of a number of things, namely the costly college admission tests for high school age kids, the rising cost of extracurricular items such as pay-to-play fees and musical instrument rental fees, and the growing list of required basic school supplies for all students. Things like thumb drives, advanced calculators, and hand sanitizer are now part of some lists teachers send before school starts.

So how can you stay budget conscious?

As costs continue to grow, there are a few tips on how to save:

  • Reuse last year’s school items – Look around the house and decide what you can stand to use for another year. As a general rule of thumb, it helps to use backpacks and lunchboxes for at least two years. Check to see if old notebooks were barely used and can be re-used for another subject. Try and re-use loose-leaf paper for 3-ring binders from prior years rather than buying new packages.
  • Buy a little at a time – Retailers will rotate deals throughout August and early September, so avoid buying everything at once. Taking advantage of one store’s deal on pens one week, and another store’s sale on notebooks a different week, for example, will save you a substantial amount.
  • Check on-line sales – Some retailers offer deals exclusively on-line. Watch for these sales as well as checking sites such as Amazon for lower costs.
  • Shop on tax free holidays- What better time to shop than on a tax free holiday? Massachusetts and Connecticut are both offering tax free days this year, on purchases of clothing, footwear, and more. (For more details on MA’s and CT’s tax free days in 2015, read our recent blogs)
  • Follow the teacher provided list- Make sure you are following the teacher provided supply list—you don’t want to be buying things you think your children need only to find that you have purchased the wrong kind, size, etc., or that you’ve wasted money on something they don’t need at all.

It can be stressful finding the resources to make sure your children have what they need, and to make sure their teachers are satisfied with what you’ve provided for them. As long as you save all you can from previous years and are smart about when you head to the stores, you will be in good shape.

Questions? Contact us.

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