5 Ways to Make Your Back-to-School Budget Stretch!

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School is just around the corner. The school supply lists have been or will soon be sent home reminding you of what your child needs to bring to school for the upcoming year. It’s likely the list looks daunting and seems pricey!

If you are not careful, the back-to-school budget can easily be comparable to if not surpass a holiday gift budget. At the same time, a little planning and preparation can save you lots of cash on supplies. Here are five ways to stretch your back-to-school budget.

1. Organize and evaluate what you already have on hand.

It is likely that you do not need to purchase every last item on the school supply list. You probably already have many of the items on hand but may just need to gather them all in one place and take inventory. While you’re doing this, consider creating a central spot for all of these supplies in an organized and accessible fashion for what won’t be sent to school.

Then, decide which items will be used by which child and which items could just use a little TLC. For example, it may be possible that a lunch box is just dirty and not actually in bad shape. Mechanical pencils may just need some additional lead instead of buying a whole new pencil set. Fix up any items, and set aside what will be sent to school. Now you can mark those items off of the list before you even start shopping. Stay tuned next week for how to re-vamp existing supplies to make the old seem new and exciting all over again!

2. Do NOT do all of your shopping in one trip.

Current school supply sales going on now and over the next month can really help you to save big on what you didn’t have at home that will need to be purchased. At the same time, you’ll need to be strategic in order to really get the most of the deals. Consider spreading out school supply shopping over several weeks because the great deals change weekly. Some of the best deals (such as the penny deals) require a minimum purchase in order to receive the discount so consider meeting the minimum on other things you need without buying everything you need. If you have not purchased all of the items at once, you’ll have plenty of things to buy bit-by-bit to reach the minimum each time, get the great deals, and know that you’ll buy other things you need in the following weeks.

3. Think in terms of your year-long needs, but also take advantage of current sales.

Let’s face it, kids use school supplies up just about as fast as they were purchased. Anticipate that there may be a need later in the school year to send more pencils or other commonly used supplies to school again. The best school supply deals in stores are happening now and not in January or February. Therefore, be sure to anticipate this and stock up on more than what the supply list calls for now. You’ll also want to consider what supply needs you will have at home for homework and buy extra for your at-home use, too.

4. Get creative with where you find and how you use/label supplies.

Does one child have a school supply or school clothes that another sibling really wants? Consider trading supplies so that what one kid is tired of using can now be used by another one who still likes and wants it. One child’s outgrown clothes may be the perfect size for a younger sibling. Consider using your stock pile for things like tissues and baggies that will be requested by the teacher but are not important enough to the kids to need to buy them special (no need to buy the “cool” box of tissues when it will be tossed after use anyway!). Think about unconventional places that might have school supplies lurking throughout the house, and use those. Have all of the pencils disappeared into game board boxes when they were needed to record scores? Did all the rulers end up in the garage when they were used for summer fix-it projects? You’ll be amazed at what you might discover or be able to re-use.

Also, get creative with how you label supplies. If less supplies are lost, there will be less need to go out and purchase replacements. Consider labeling supplies with your child’s name in permanent marker or even with something more fun like stickers with their name pre-printed on them.

5. Only send the necessities to school with the kids, and keep the rest at home for safekeeping.

You’ll save big money on needing to go out and buy things later if you help your kids to only use what they need instead of having instant access to all of their new and exciting supplies at once. Be sure to keep the supplies out of sight and mind before they get to school so they aren’t used up before they even get there. When you drop off supplies, ask teachers which supplies will be collected up and used collectively as a class (tissues, etc.) versus which ones each child will hold onto and use individually. For the individual use ones, only give your child what they will need now. Save the rest at home, and send them to school as needed. Just be sure to tell your kids they are available whenever needed so they don’t think they have to suffer all year without a writing utensil!

What are other ways that you save money on school supplies? We would love to hear from you in the comments section!

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