Back to school expenses

Back to school can be a stressful time for families because this time of year is for them, along with the holiday season, the time when our expenses most largely exceed those we usually have. A balanced budget and small actions can reduce the gap and make a big difference at the end of the month. Here are some tips:

  • Budget: Set an amount you’ll be able to pay before you start shopping and stick to it. It’s easy to be tempted when you see all the trendy new supplies. If possible, avoid putting everything on the credit card unless you have planned the money to pay for it at the end of the month.
  • List: Make a list of everything that is needed. Many schools provide a list of required supplies. Be sure to check what you already have at home before you shop. Quite often, we have unused supplies from the previous year.
  • Sales and discounts: Take advantage of sales, discounts and coupons offered at the beginning of the school year. Many retailers have special promotions to be the first to attract customers.
  • Quality vs price: Do not always choose the cheapest option for items with a longer lifespan (ex. backpack, calculator, etc.). Sometimes it’s worth spending a little more on better quality items that will last longer.
  • Bulk buying: Consider buying in bulk items that will be used throughout the year, such as paper, pencils and notebooks.
  • Trademarks: Sometimes generic brands are just as good as reputable brands and can save you a lot of money. Also, big box or $1 stores can offer good prices for cheaper items (ex. pencil, paper, etc.).
  • Essentials vs Extras: Focus on buying the essentials first. Additional items such as decorative kits, stickers, etc., can quickly pile up and cut into your budget for other “essential” items.
  • Technology: If certain technology items such as laptops, tablets or calculators are needed, compare prices in different stores and online. These are big purchases, and the possible savings will therefore be greater. Also check if the school has discount programs (“student discount”).
  • Clothing: Consider the school’s dress code and climate when buying clothing. It is also worth investing in versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched.
  • Tags: Don’t forget to label all your child’s belongings with their name. You would be surprised (or not!) at everything that gets lost or “borrowed long-term” at school.
  • Shop early: Don’t wait until the last minute. Shopping early will give you a better choice and help you avoid the rush.
  • Returns and exchanges: Keep receipts for all purchases in case you need to return or exchange an item.
  • Involve your child: Let your child participate in the buying process. It can be a fun activity and it also teaches him/her budget management and decision-making. That said, don’t let him/her make all the decisions because price probably doesn’t matter as much to him/her as it does to you!

Welcome back to school!