Back to school shopping tips
As the summer holidays start to feel like the end is (finally!) in sight, after only a few short weeks ago they felt like a never-ending break that would be impossible to fill, it’s time for every parent across the country to start the challenge of making sure their kids have everything they need for a brand new year of schooling.
Saving money on your back-to-school shopping
What it’s easy to overlook is the financial strain the back-to-school shop can create for parents. The more kids in the family, the bigger the strain. You could already be in a place where you’re tightening your belts, to pay back the expense of a family holiday; whether you had a staycation or travelled abroad, and for all the activities you’ve engaged in over the summer break.
So how can you get your kids back into the classroom without causing too much damage to your finances?
The complete checklist for the savvy back-to-school shopper
I’ve got 2 checklists for you. The first one is super simple, and it should be your golden rulebook. The second, well, the second is really for you to make and to stick to.
The back to school checklist
- Plan your shopping list
- Plan your budget
- Stick to your list and your budget
That’s it. I told you it was simple. If you do those 3 things, you’re prepared for every expense and eventuality, and you can’t possibly go over budget.
If you’ve got an organised list of everything you need, and what you’re prepared to spend on each item, you should have a definitive cost for the lot. That’s your budget. If you can save on even half of those items, you’ve earned yourself a pat on the back, and a treat with the money you’ve saved.
Well, as long as you aren’t already using the money you’ve saved to make a dent in the summer credit card bill you’ve just run up…
The back-to-school shopping list
Only you can make this list. Every child is different. How old they are, the school rules, their grade, will all make what they need unique to them. It’s your job, as master of logistics, to figure out what that list must contain—right down to the last paper clip.
Considerations for your child’s unique all-encompassing list should include:
- Uniform items
- Have you got enough shorts, shirts, shoes, socks and jumpers? And that PE kit is probably way too small after a summer holiday’s worth of growing…
Pens, pencils, compasses, correction
- fluid and more.
- School life
You’re going to need bags, lunch boxes, water bottles, gloves, scarves and hats; we’re only a few skips and jumps from the turn in the weather
- Transport and travel
Do your kids need a bus pass? A little extra maintenance to get their bikes in good running condition? A decent lock so no-one steals it?
How to complete your entire back-to-school shopping task on budget
The key to coming in under budget is to save money at every opportunity
Here are our top tips and tricks for coming in under budget:
- Don’t buy items you don’t need.
Can you reclaim the bits and bobs from last year/last term that still have life left in them?
Spruce up those hand-me-downs.
Children generally grow out of their clothes way faster than they can wear them out these days. Okay, so your youngest will get fed up of not having as many brand new items as their older siblings, but make a deal with them. For as many hand-me-downs they have to wear, they get a treat that their siblings don’t. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and they’ll soon forget all about wearing their brother’s old jumper or their sister’s blazer from last year.
Gather up your budget plan and hammer the online stores, sales and specials to try and buy every item on your list for less than you planned. The Internet is exactly the playground (excuse the pun) to do this. Search for every item and find out where it’s on sale for the smallest spend. You’ve got the world’s biggest online stores at your fingertips. Use them.
Avoid impulse spending.
One of the great things about writing your list is you know exactly what you need and what you don’t. If you take your kids shopping in the high street, you’re all going to be consistently distracted by the things that aren’t part of the plan. Don’t be tempted. All that glitters is not gold—it’s additional expense.
Get together with other parents.
Every family will have a range of items that were must-haves last year but not so much anymore. Their children could have grown out of their clothes, accessories, fashions and styles; and if they haven’t got younger brothers or sisters of their own to hand them down to then start an exchange pool. Swapping, selling and wheeling and dealing amongst each other can save you a rewarding amount of time and money.
Check for money of vouchers and back-to-school sales.
The retailers are as aware as you are that the time for school spending is imminent. They want you to part with your money in their stores and not their competitors; so there will be promotions to win your trade. Don’t be loyal to any one shop or brand. Go where the deals are, make your savings, and move on.
Whatever you do, and however late you’re running with the big back-to-school shop, panicking is your enemy. Panic will make you cut corners, move away from your budget, spend more than you planned to, and escalate your spending costs. If you’ve left things a little too late, cover the basics, and you can work on the rest of the list while the kids are back in the classroom.
Our big tip for next year’s back-to-school shop
Much in the same way our guide for this year is all about good planning, it’s just the same for the years to come.
If you already have a savings plan for Christmas, your annual holiday or your next car, why not have one for the big back-to-school shop? If you haven’t got a saving plan for any of those significant spend events already—why not?
If you know you can afford what’s coming in advance, you won’t ever put yourself under unwanted financial pressure that you really can take steps to avoid.