5 Really Simple Ways to Save on Back to School Costs

By Bob Masterson

school supplies

Parents are set to spend $688 in 2012 to get each of their children ready for the upcoming school year.  That’s for clothing, supplies and electronics.  Seems like a lot?  That's nothing, online shoppers are set to spend $874, a 27% increase above the overall shopper average according to the National Retail Foundation.   These numbers are up from last year, but the economy is still top of mind for 85% of shoppers.  So to get you off on the right foot, here are 5 really simple ways your kids can help you cut down on back to school costs.

  1. First and foremost, check existing inventory. A good pre-fall clean up can help here.  As you clean up and sort out rooms, gather up all pencils, pens, notebooks and other miscellaneous supplies and sort and inventory these items.  Make a list of the items needed.  This goes for clothing as well.  Sort out and try on to see what fits and what doesn’t.  For those good condition items that don’t fit, hand them down.  If there are no younger siblings, offer them to friends that might be able to use them.  This is a good opportunity to get hand me down items from friends and family.  Hand me downs may not be as cool to your own kids as new duds, but can sure save a fortune, and nobody outside the family will be the wiser.
  2. Create a budget. Now that you know what you need, create an overall budget that you want to stick within and then break that budget down for each child.  Break items into categories, (i.e. clothing, books, misc. supplies) and assign an amount to each.  This helps the kids see the big picture and how their budget fits in.  Now here begins the fun part.  Challenge each child to meet or beat the budget.  If they are under budget they get to keep the difference and if they go over, it comes out of their pockets.
  3. Buy in bulk. Pool your list with friends and family and then shop at bulk stores.  Split the costs and save the difference.  This can save a lot of money.  This works on many other items besides school supplies.
  4. Buy refurbished. With more schools expecting kids to have laptops in class, refurbished is the way to go to save on expensive electronic items.  All computer manufacturers sell refurbished computers and laptops through their outlet centers and you can easily save 25 to 50% or more off the price of a new computer.  That’s cash in the bank!  You can also find many refurbished electronics at Amazon.com and through eBay.
  5. Be thrifty. Thrift stores like Salvation Army or garage sales are great places to pick up slightly used clothing, back packs, desks, chairs, lamps along with many other needed back to school items.  You’re looking at 70% or more in savings over buying these items new and giving back to the community at the same time.

The key to making this a learning experience for the kids is getting them involved in the whole process and giving them spending responsibilities appropriate to their age.  The best way to learn is by doing and making small mistakes now can help prevent larger mistakes later down the road.

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