School supplies
back to school

Your
money or your mind!

It's that time of year again! Your kids are going back to school and they'll need the supplies to get them through the year. We know how you can buy the supplies they need without breaking the bank or losing your mind.

As excited as you and the kiddos may be about the start of a brand-new school year, it seems every year gets more and more expensive. They have six school supply boxes in the closet, but they have to have the trendy new stuff. And who knows why your kid needs both crayons and map pencils!?

We'll show you some easy ways to save cash on back-to-school supplies. And the best part is, the power is in your kids' hands, so the whining will be kept to a minimum.

Step 1: Do an inventory

For each child, obtain the list of supplies they'll need. Go through them carefully to determine which supplies you already have on hand. Put a check mark by these items. A half-full glue bottle from last year can be used again if it's not dried up. You can always buy more if your child runs out.

Step 2: Set a reasonable budget

Look up the prices of each item on each child's list to determine what a reasonable price is and determine what you're willing to spend. You can buy a backpack for $20, but if you're willing to spend $60 to make sure it's a quality one, that's the price you should budget.

For the items you already have on hand, assign those to each child as needed, trying to keep it fair. They can trade later if they need to.

Step 3: Get the kids involved

Show your kids their lists and if they're old enough, let them determine what they want. It's helpful to do a scouting mission at your local office supply or discount store. Let the kids make a list of the things they want (their "wants" list) and how much each item costs. Use your cell phone to take photos if you need to.

Just make sure the kids understand that Mom has ultimate veto power.

Step 4: Do your homework

Does your daughter just have to have the expensive Bieber binder, pencils, school box folders and spirals? Go look for the same items online, where you're likely to find the exact same or similar item cheaper.

Keep track of where you find the various items and how much they cost where.

Step 5: Decision time

Remember that budget you set in step 2? That's the budget your kids have to stick to. For younger kids, you may have to make many of these decisions for them, but older kids can make their own. If desired, add an extra $10 (or other age-appropriate amount) to each budget so your kids have some "Monopoly money" to play with. Any amount of the Monopoly money they don't spend, they get to keep for later.

Have your kids choose from their list of wants and any cheaper replacements you found (no need to worry about price right now). Encourage them to keep leftover supplies from last year's supplies to save on budget.

Tip: If buying online, stick to one store that had the overall best deals. That will save you money on shipping.

Calculate where they are on the budget. If they're under, you can purchase what they need from the list wherever you found the best deals.

In all likelihood, they'll be over. That's when they have to make some sacrifices. They may sacrifice fancy pencils and go for plain ones, decide to use a school box from last year and decorate it with new stickers or make book covers at home to keep the more important items they want.

Either way, the control is in their hands (and they're learning important lessons about budgeting without knowing it). While this may take a little more time, it will not only save you money when you buy the premium stuff online, but stop those in-store battles of wills that you're almost sure to eventually lose.

More ways to guarantee back-to-school success

Set your kids up for homework success
Create a fun homework space for kids
Parent-teacher relationships important to child's success

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