“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin
As much as I hate to admit it, summer is winding down and the start of school is right around the corner. Whether you have children just starting out in school or you’re sending a new graduate to college for the very first time or you’re somewhere in between, back to school preparation is no joke. It’s a time of excitement for what the new year is going to hold and some sadness that the summer is over. In my own home at the moment I’m having a hard time understanding why my 11-year-old first time middle schooler needs a chandelier for her locker. There has been talk of some sort of rug as well, which led me to ask her if she was planning on napping in her newly acquired locker. Do you know what that gets you from a pre-teen? The biggest eye-roll you’ve ever seen.
Back to school expenses can really add up. It’s estimated that they can cost a parent anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per child in the first 30 days of school so we want to share some ways you can save while passing on some valuable lessons to your children in the process.
Set a Budget
The most important step you can take when beginning your back to school shopping is to set a budget. Sit down with your children and the supply list provided by your school. Add in what you are willing to spend on clothing and shoes and any other items necessary to begin the school year. Find out what extra costs are involved to start the year off such as athletic and uniform fees, club dues, field trips, etc. If you set a budget you are less likely to overspend and your child begins to understand that extra-curricular activities are not just a time commitment but also often requires a financial commitment. This is an easy way to introduce your children to budgets and actively involve them in a process that is relevant to them.
Reuse and Repurpose
Every year I have my children go through their bedrooms, our kitchen drawers, closets, and basically every other black hole that exists in our home where school supplies (and other assorted items like to hide.) I started doing this the summer my daughter was entering the second grade. I was doing some major cleaning and I found no less than 27 glue sticks, 5 pairs of scissors, 60 pencils, 32 pens, 57 markers, and countless crayons. We now collect all of these items, spread them out on the table and decide what we can use and what we can throw away. More often than not they have plenty of items that they can begin the school year with. I still spring for the brand-new box of crayons because nothing screams back to school success more than a fresh box of crayons.
We also reach a compromise when it comes to a new backpack. These items can be pricey so instead of a new backpack every year, my children will agree to a new lunch box. After 180 days of packed lunches, they’re definitely a little worse for the wear anyways. It’s a deal we can all agree on.
Sale Sale Sale
The school year tends to sneak up on me but the good news for me and all the other procrastinating parents out there is that the best sales tend to be in August and September. Everything from clothing to laptops will be less expensive in these months rather than when retailers first stock the shelves.
When it comes to electronics you can register through Best Buy’s Student Hub for tons of discounts and rebates that are available for all students enrolled in elementary school through college. Amazon is another great place to check. I always start with their Deal of the Day section which features deals on everything from batteries to electronics to hand sanitizers and you definitely need to send the kids off to school with a good supply of hand sanitizer!
If you’re looking for good prices and convenience you’ll want to check out Walmart’s Back to School portal. They offer free two-day shipping or in-store pickup to save you time. Teachers can upload their supply lists directly to Walmart’s School Supply List section. Simply enter your zip code, search for your school, and add the items to your cart directly from your list. They even have suggestions for the best lunch picks for your kids. It may be easier to sit down at the computer and walk your kids through the virtual aisles of Walmart to get some good ideas rather than venture out without a plan if you’re going to stick to the budget you created with them.
We all know that the first day back to school outfit is the most important of the year for children of all ages. We can all remember the first day nerves and excitement and the confidence a new outfit can inspire, but buying an entire school wardrobe can certainly blow the back to school budget. The good news is that retailers offer huge discounts on school clothing in the month of September so I typically will purchase a few new items to start the school year and watch for those deals to pop up. Chances are it’s still pretty warm when school starts so a few new pieces mixed with some summer items can go a long way. A great place to look for clothing coupons and discounts is the popular site RetailMeNot.
These three areas can be a perfect introduction to want versus need with your children. Including them in the budgeting and decision-making process can set them up to make smart choices later in life.
At Aspire Wealth Group we all believe that life is about teachable moments and back to school is the perfect time to begin instilling some important financial lessons to your children.