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How to create a back-to-school budget

Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps ...

School's back!

An in-depth look at building a budget for sending your kids back to school, including all the necessary supplies and clothes they'll need for the school year.
Mom shopping for backpacks

Every mom knows that back-to-school shopping is not cheap. The list of supplies is long and the list of wants is even longer. The kids will need new clothes, bigger shoes, possibly a new backpack and maybe even a pricey calculator for those high school math classes.

Can we agree that back-to-school shopping can be more expensive (and sometimes more stressful) than Christmas shopping? Fortunately, we've found a few ways to save by creating (and sticking to) a back-to-school budget. Take a look at this all-inclusive guide!

Create a budget

No two budgets are ever the same. Sit down and decide exactly how much you can afford to spend on back-to-school shopping. If the number is less than you'd like, buy the absolute necessities this month and wait another month or two to buy the rest. For example, your child will need new shoes if they've outgrown their old ones, but a new backpack can probably wait a month or two.

school suppliesMake and prioritize a list

Most likely, your child will receive a list of what they need prior to beginning school (if not, check out this list). Rank the list in order of what is absolutely necessary to what would be considered an extra. Price everything out beforehand. Are you over your budget? If so, narrow down your list even further. Other ideas include clipping coupons, shopping at discount stores such as Wal-Mart or even your local dollar store and asking your kiddo's teacher exactly what items will be needed in the first month of class (for example, glue sticks can probably wait).

  • Necessities include: Paper, pens, spiral-bound notebooks, folders, three-ring binders, planners, rulers and possibly colored pencils for grade-schoolers.
  • Extras include: Staplers, glue, pencil sharpeners, crayons and markers. Typically, classrooms are already equipped with these items or the students can share.
  • Shoes and clothing: Most likely, your child has clothes that currently fit him or her. Make sure their shoes fit and they have a few pairs of socks. If your budget allows, feel free to buy them one or two new shirts, but there's no need to go overboard since kids grow quickly and winter is approaching.

Talk to you kids

Instead of telling them "no" and possibly causing a fight (or temper tantrum), explain how much they're able to spend on back-to-school supplies in advance. Involve them and let them be a part of the process! As you go through the store, let your child add up the prices of everything as you shop. This teaches them responsibility and the importance of sticking to a budget.

Tips on saving money

  • If you can, wait to buy as many items as possible a few weeks to a month after school starts. Once school is back in session, stores significantly reduce the price of the supplies.
  • Take inventory of what you have. This is a great excuse to clean out your kid's closets and the kitchen drawers. We bet you'll find a good amount of unused pens and never-been-worn clothes!
  • Always be on the lookout for coupons. Look online for sales and coupons before heading to the store of your choice.
  • Shop around. Be willing to hit up multiple stores in order to get the best deals. This works especially well for those on a very tight budget.

Tell us

What are your tips for saving money on back-to-school supplies? Share in the comments below!

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