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School year budget tips for moms

Molly Cerreta Smith has enjoyed a career in the publishing industry for more than 10 years. As an editor of several regional magazines, she has had the opportunity throughout her career to meet many local celebrities, businesspeople, ent...

Back to school budget tips

Back to school for kids means back to the bank for mom. A credit card swipe here, an ATM withdrawal there, and back-to-school spending can really add up. Here are some school year budget tips to help you stock up on school supplies without breaking the bank.

Girl with back to school supplies

1Set a budget.

Before you set out for your school year shopping, set a budget for back-to-school supplies, classroom donations, new school clothes, even random things you may have to spring for later -- holiday gifts for teachers, for example. Then spread out your spending month by month to help you prioritize your school year spending and stretch your budget through graduation day.

2Stock up.

Buying in bulk equates to savings, but only if you need, say, 100 pens. Otherwise, that extra spending simply becomes waste. Join forces with another mom to divide some of the bulk school supply items so you are not left with excess.

3Take advantage of sales.

LA stay at home mom Jenny Chien, who has one child with another on the way, advises fellow mothers, "Always make sure to shop during the sales. If you buy school supplies at an off-sale time, items like crayons will be double or triple the price!"

4Don't forget online discounts.

Back-to-school is practically a national holiday, complete with the major sales that accompany most of them. From big-name department stores and discount stores to websites, companies offer big deals on back-to-school supplies, clothes, etc. Amanda Tripp, a stay-at-home Portland mom with three kids, takes advantage of online coupon codes. She says, "Staples and Office Max have great coupon codes on the Ebates website for back to school. At Staples, if I spend $50, I can get $10 off plus free shipping. That way, I can get the better calculator for my son and have it shipped straight to my house."

5Get the essentials first, extras later.

Your child needs new jeans now (hers are now highwaters and in no way mistakable for capris). Your child's classroom can probably wait for the box of tissues or plastic bags required of each student. Get what's needed now, and make a list of what you'll need later. You can wait until the next month for the other items. Don't forget to run this by your kid's teacher, though, so your child won't look like the only one in class who didn't contribute his share.

6Don't buy out of guilt or obligation.

Whether your child has to have the new iPad 2 (don't we all?) or your next door neighbor's kid is vying to sell the most Christmas wrapping for the school contest, don't buy anything you can't afford or that will dip into your allotted spending. Guilt and obligatory purchases have no place in your budget. If your child is dying for some perceived must-have item, have him save up a little, then split the cost or make it part of a gift (birthday, Christmas, etc.) Teaching children the value of a dollar -- and what it means to save and spend -- is priceless.

More back-to-school tips

How to dress your child for school
Mom secrets for the first day of school
5 School clothes every kid needs

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