Very few parents want to start thinking about back-to-school shopping in the middle of summer. But back-to-school supplies and clothing can cost hundreds of dollars, so now is the time to start planning so that you can realize the biggest savings.
Start with a budget
If I'm starting to sound like a broken record, you're not wrong. Every good plan starts with a budget. Decide right now how much you are willing to spend on clothes and school supplies. Even more important, tell your kids what the budget is and involve them in the decisions that will keep all of you within budget.
Shopping with children in tow may be a challenge. Every newest and latest thing is fodder for another argument over what to get. But this is the ideal time for children to learn budgeting skills. Help them define the difference between wants and needs and learn how to prioritize spending. With your guidance they can learn how to compare prices, shop sales, defer purchases and stay within a budget.
Let them decide between the hottest pair of jeans or the more expensive pair of shoes. Give them a set amount to spend and a reward if they come in under budget. If they can't make the hard decisions that keep you within budget, you might just want to leave them at home and shop alone.
Go through last year's supplies
Why buy what you already have on hand? Go through the house and gather up all the supplies left over from last year. You may very well find that you already have much of what your child needs in the new year.
Do the same with clothes. See what clothes still fit and look nice and decide how many new articles of clothing are needed to make it through a school week. This is a good time to have a clothing swap with neighborhood or church friends so that your children feel like they have a new wardrobe.
Map out the sales
Have your children help you check sale fliers and compare prices. At the start of the back-to-school shopping season, stores will have loss leaders on many school supplies. Take advantage of the loss leaders, but wait on the other purchases. After school has started and the big back-to-school rush is over stores are often left with surplus. This is when to start looking for sales on shoes and clothing.
Shop garage sales and thrift stores
The school and office supply section of the thrift stores are filled with new, never opened products, all at a fraction of the cost of retail stores.
This is also a good place to start shopping for shoes and clothing. See my column (Thriftier Thrift Store Shopping | The Dakotan | Charlene Nelson (mydakotan.com) on how to get more from thrift store shopping.
If you frequent garage sales this summer, store your back-to-school clothes away. Then when you take your purchases out just before school starts, kids will feel like they've hit the mother lode of new clothes.
Shop the dollar store
The dollar store has a great selection of school and office supplies at half (or less) the cost of big box stores. Why buy name brand pens and crayons when generic brands are so cheap?
Think ahead and take advantage of every deal and coupon that comes your way. If you can stock up on supplies all summer long, it will ease the impact on your monthly budget.