While children look forward to the freedom that summer brings, summer is the season for parents to start thinking about getting the supplies their children need to start the next school year on the right foot. With the considerable debt load that many consumers carry, getting those supplies only add to the financial burden and isn’t often looked forward to. And as the children gorw, their needs become more expensive.
But getting school supplies doesn’t have to break the bank if you follow a few simple rules that can help you save money and still provide your children with the necessities.
The first step is to create a list of everything your children need for the new year. Sit down with them to discuss their requirements. Just like shopping for groceries, if you don’t know what you need to buy, you’ll buy far more than what you need. Office and school supply stores work the same way as the supermarket. With school just around the corner, those more expensive supplies are prominently displayed to entice you and your child to buy what you don’t need or can afford.
Search your home for things that your children will always need. Rulers, erasers, pencils, calculators and backpacks may already be in your home so you don’t need to buy them new every year. They can be reused or handed down to the younger kids. Check your junk drawer for those pens and knickknacks embossed with company logos that you got for free. Your children can use them.
Shop for supplies at thrift and dollar stores. Supplies are often cheaper than what you expect to find at business supply centers and supermarkets. Take a look at those sales fliers and advertised school specials and you can often pick up crayons, folders and binders for a few bucks. If you have a large family, this method can save you considerable expense on those supplies. Many stores offer price matching, so you can often get better quality at a different store than what you might buy at the thrift shop.
Take advantage of tax-free holidays that many states offer at the beginning of the school year. Shopping on a specific day can shave off as much as 10% on your school supply tab.
Buy only what’s necessary. Children are demanding. They want that ipad to be “in” with their friends. But buying electronic equipment can be a great expense unless they are a requirement for school. Those colored pens, locker accessories and other items cost more than the plain items. Focus on the essentials when you buy. If you have money left over after buying the essentials, you can consider buying according to your children’s wants.
Remain in control. Your children will beg when something attracts their interest. To counter that, you can insist that they pay part of the cost from their own allowance. That may change their mind if they realize that the cost may be too great for what they can afford. It’s a good way to teach them how to handle money. Learning to use money wisely will help them when they grow older and need to be more frugal once they enter college and university. On average, today’s teenagers are already in debt to thousands of dollars by the time they graduate and begin working in the real world.
Buy the cheaper and plain supplies and let the kids personalize them. Notebooks, calendars and other school items can be painted and embellished with stickers, crayon drawings and other artworks. The more the children are involved in the creative process, the more their supplies mean to them no matter what they cost.
Buying school supplies don’t have to break your budget. With a bigger family, you’ll need to employ more creativity, but you’ll find dozens of other ways to save. The way you save will one day inspire your children to do the same when they have families to buy supplies for.