Surviving Back to School and all Your Fall Expenses on a Budget
Whether you’re starting your kids in pre-school or returning to grad school, back to school is an exciting time for anyone starting something new. It’s also a time that requires you to buy! This may mean school supplies, books, new clothes, backpacks and briefcases and even new computers and tablets.
While fall can add a lot of expenses to your plate, there are plenty of ways to get what you need, get the maximum value for your dollar and stay within your budget.
Here are 8 tips to get you started:
1. BE THE MAN (OR WOMAN) WITH A PLAN
Before you spend a cent, the first thing you need to do is have a plan. Assemble all your lists of must-have supplies. Then see if there’s anything that you can remove from that list, chances are there are probably a few items you can disregard or label as “wait and see.”
Then create a budget for your supplies. Don’t base it on what you need. It should be based on what you can afford. The last thing you want to do is go into debt, especially before the holidays.
Once you have a budget, a little research can show you where to find the best prices, and help you determine the best strategy for taking advantage of sales, coupons and special offers.
You don’t even have to run from store to store to get the best deal; many major retailers will match a competitor’s price, so if it’s cheaper at one store, you can bring proof and get the same price with less hassle.
2. CHECK YOUR CLOSETS
Before you buy new, make sure you don’t already have it used. Many common school supplies are probably laying around your house. Do a thorough inventory of your drawers and closets before you start spending, and don’t be afraid to get creative. A plain binder or pencil box can easily be decorated with photos, stickers, and art supplies to make it into a personal item that is unique for you or your child.
3. STAY OUT OF THE STORES
Brick and mortar stores work on the principle of, “if someone comes in for one thing, they’re likely to buy something else.” That’s why many stores offer rock-bottom prices on must have items. They know they’ll more than make up the difference with impulse buys.
Remember, online shopping can be cheaper than buying at the store, especially if you can take advantage of free shipping from Amazon. Or if you prefer a brick and mortar retailer, try making your purchases in advance and pick them up at the store.
4. SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE
One great way to save is to collaborate with friends and family. If you have friends who need the same supplies that you do, consider pooling your money to buy in bulk.
If you have friends with kids that are different ages from yours, see if you can arrange a hand-me-down swap. One year’s gently used items can easily be passed down, and no one has to spend a dime.
5. TRENDS ARE TRAPS
Advertisers know that the easiest way to sell something is to make it a “must have” item. Whether it’s a popular character on a backpack or designer name on your fall jacket, we’re all susceptible to trends and labels. Unfortunately, many of these items won’t last the year, and some won’t even survive the season. Instead, look for items that will last awhile. You’re likely to pay about the same amount of money, and the investment will last a lot longer.
6. SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER
What does September have in common with January? They’re the months when prices drop along with demand. That makes late August and September ideal months to buy generic items like pens, pencils, and notebooks, and it’s also the time when the prices on computers and other consumer electronics go down before the holidays. That gives you a perfect window to take advantage of these lower prices.
7. CUTTING EDGE IS OVERRATED
When it comes to buying computers, tablets, and smartphones, the latest isn’t always the greatest. While ads promote the fastest processors and sharpest graphics, ask about the next most recent model, it probably has more than enough memory and power to meet your needs. Not only that, you’re also getting a piece of technology that has been thoroughly vetted and is less likely to experience bugs and glitches.
8. GET READY FOR NEXT YEAR
When you’ve done your shopping, hold onto your receipts and record all the budgeting lessons learned. They’re bound to come in handy next year. And remember, after the rush of back-to-school has passed, you can find some great deals on supplies, so stock up for next year while the prices are low!
Looking for more ideas on how to save money and budget for the season? Come talk with us today! We can help you with loans, financing, and other ideas on how to save for the future.