Going back to school is getting harder on parent’s wallets. With cash-strapped school districts, families are forced to bear more and more of the supplies burden. In fact, the average American family with school-age children typically spends more than $500 for back-to-school supplies. Having a plan and scoping out good deals can help you stay on budget when getting your child supplied for the school year. Here are a few tips.
Recycle & reuse.
- Before you even think about shopping, see what you already have on hand. Go through last year’s supplies and salvage what is still usable. You probably have pens, pencils, rulers, highlighters, scissors, a stapler and staples on hand. Find a place to store these items throughout the year.
- Keep your eyes open for sales on basics throughout the year and buy when items are on sale. Lined paper, erasers, subject folders and calculators are often sold at reduced prices after the back-to-school season.
- Online office supply and stationery stores may have lower prices, and ordering is easy with just a click.
- Family members may have supplies they will donate.
- Embellish plain supplies with markers, stickers and fabric scraps. Make your own pencil and laptop cases using fabric and other materials you already have at home.
Make a list & a budget.
- Get the list of required supplies from your child’s school or its website, and stick to those items.
- While your child may want a higher-cost range of items, deviating from the recommended supplies can put a dent in the budget. Decide in advance how you’ll respond when your child asks for extra or special items. Perhaps you will allow one extra purchase only, or suggest that the child pay for all or part of the additional expense out of her own spending money.
Pool your resources.
Team up with other parents — especially if you have children in the same grade — to save big.
- Use group buying power to purchase basics in bulk and split the costs.
- Divide and conquer. Each parent in the group can be responsible for checking out savings and pricing at discount and dollar stores, stationery and office supply outlets, and online.
- The kids can trade on-hand supplies for something new, pooling all the existing supplies at a get-together you host with snacks. It’s a fun way to share and get everyone ready with what they’ll need. A child with an extra backpack can trade for a new set of colorful markers, and one with excess subject folders can barter them for another child’s gently-used calculator.
More back-to-school tips
Splurge vs. steal: School supplies edition
Your children’s school essentials & back-to-school guide
Getting ready for back to school