The first day of school has come and gone in the Brighton, Michigan area but not every family has finished their back to school shopping. Once upon a time, kids went to school with a backpack, a lunch box, a pencil and that was it. Now, school supply lists seem a mile long, stacks of receipts a mountain high, and summertime runs out far too quickly to get everything you need before the first day of school.
If you’re like many others and waited until the last minute to get your shopping done, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with the ultimate list of last minute back to school shopping tips.
1. Take inventory
School supplies aren’t always cheap, but at least they don’t expire. Last year’s pencils will work great again this year, and probably the next one after that.
But pencils aren’t the only reusable back-to-school item. The key is staying organized and keeping barely-used supplies in a place you can find them the following year. That way, you can quickly take inventory before you shop. For now, take a moment to see what’s leftover from last year and make a plan for keeping back-to-school inventory in the future. Why buy notebooks again if you don’t have to? Check what your kids have leftover in their backpacks, their rooms and even the junk drawer. Look anywhere and everywhere for the school related items you might need.
The same principles work for clothes shopping as well. Build on the wardrobe your children already have, taking inventory will allow you to cut down on the amount of new clothes you need to purchase.
2. Make a list of necessities and set a budget
Now that you’ve taken inventory on what you already have, make a list and simplify your shopping process. Not creating a plan or making a list often leads to two shopping problems: you forget the necessities, and you buy stuff you don’t need.
Now, budgeting comes in. Once you’ve created your list and determine how much your kids really need, you need to set a realistic clothing and school supply budget and stick to it. If you haven’t been setting money aside all year (which you really should), you’ll need to determine what you can afford to spend on school-related expenses without going overboard. Scoring bargains won’t help your bottom line if you end up paying interest on unpaid balances.
3. Shop used and collect hand-me-downs
You can get deep discounts by shopping used. Check out your local garage sales and secondhand stores to see what you can pick up gently used and for great prices. Often, backpacks, winter coats, kids clothes (some still with their tags), and school supplies are available in abundance.
Contact other parents in your area or your family to plan a swapping party and exchange hand-me-downs. This is great way to get rid of extra clutter and get what your kids need without blowing your budget.
4. Find sales, use coupons and compare prices
Retailers start stocking up on school supplies in July, and they’ll run sales right through September. So even if you wait till the last minute, you can find great clearance deals. A few weeks after the first day of school the special discounts begin so stores can clear out their shelves for holiday inventory.
Different stores run sales at different times. To get the best deals possible compare prices to deals online and use apps to compare savings without trekking from store-to-store.
5. Shop without your kids or let them help out from the beginning
Sixty-five percent of back-to-school shoppers say half or more of their purchases are a direct result of their children’s influence, according to the National Retail Federation.
Bringing your children to the store when you shop could lead to more items in your shopping cart — and more pressure to purchase specific products.
To avoid this, leave them at home or get your kids involved in the shopping experience from going through inventory, to creating a budget to couponing and finally, shopping. Giving your children a financial education is an important part of making sure your kids grow up to be financially responsible adults and back to school shopping could be a great learning experience for them!
Back to school shopping doesn’t have to be a headache and doesn’t have to happen well in advance. Now that school has started use these tips to make the rest of your school shopping a breeze.