Have you started your back to school shopping? I definitely have. I plan my back to school shopping before the previous school year even ends. With four kids to shop for (Adrian, Ivanna, Amberly and Gian), I've learned that back to school shopping can get very expensive, very quickly! I have some tips up my sleeve to make the process as painless as possible.
1. Set a budget. This is the most important step not only for back to school shopping but for saving money in general. At the beginning of the year, I go over our expenses and start allocating money away for back to school shopping. There are constant item the kids will need every year: uniforms, shoes, backpacks and supplies. Each child will need at least 5 sets (polo and skirt/shorts.pants) of uniforms, at least one new pair of sneakers and a new backpack (my kids destroy theirs every year.) The one thing that really fluctuates are the supplies. I know that uniforms cost about $100, shoes about $60 and $30 for backpack so right off the bat I set a $200 budget per child.
2. Shop year-round sales and clearances. This is a HUGE money-saver for me. Around spring time, I see lots of uniforms go into the sales and clearances and if I find uniform shorts or pants in a size up, I will purchase them. This makes any last-minute uniform shopping in August bearable since I probably have some pieces stored away. The same goes for shoes or undergarments.
3. Buy school supplies in bulk. Even though school supply lists can vary among 4 kids heading into grades 6, 4, 3 and 2, there are some constants like pencils, crayons and paper that they will all need. I do not set a school supply budget per child, I have one set amount for all the supplies, lets say $250 - $300. I try to get the school supply lists as early as possible and carry them with me every time I head out to the stores. If I see crayons on sale, I stock up. I buy pencils, paper and antibacterial items that all the classrooms request by the box. I then shop around and price match for the more expensive items like the graphing calculator that Ivanna needs this year.
4. I talk to my kids about budgets. This is super important. Let's say we are shoe shopping. I inform each child that they have $60 for shoes. They can choose one pair of $60 shoes (this would be Adrian) or 2 or 3 pairs for the same amount. Usually, Amberly and Ivanna are more sale savvy and will find 2 or 3 pairs (sneakers and flats) that they like for school.
5. Allocate a little extra for the first couple of weeks. I have a total budget of about $1500 for back to school. If you follow my spending above, I am at about $1100, why the extra? As prepared as I think my kids are for back to school, there are always little expenses that pop up. Adrian is in the drama magnet this year, I have to give a donation and buy special shirts. Ivanna wants to join the school soccer team, if she makes it, she will need some extra soccer stuff. I haven't decided if I am going to work less hours once school starts. If I don't, then I need to pay for after-school care registration fees. I don't want to be shell-shocked when all this happens so I always keep a little extra saved. Also, whatever money I don't spend I move to the winter vacation fund!!
Need more tips on saving for back to school? Protective has lots of tips for helping families with budgeting. Teaching my kids to leave within their means and save for the future is one of my major goals as a parent! All this back to school talk always reminds me that in a few years, we will getting ready to send them off to college. Have you started saving for college or even a rainy day fund? I learned so much about saving and budgeting on the Protective site! Check out everything Protective has to offer!!