Amanda H. Christensen, AFC, USU Extension Professor
Utah Money Moms Blog Editor
Prep for back to school is in full swing at my house. I'll admit, prepping one child, a kindergartener, presents a lot less stress on my pocket book than my friends and family with five kiddos in three different schools.
Why are we feeling the pinch this year? The Consumer Price Index reports prices on goods and services overall are up 8.6% nationally. In Utah it’s even higher at 10.4% compared to this time last year. It’s been 40 years since we’ve seen prices rise that fast in just one year’s time. So, it matters this year especially how we navigate back to school spending!
Regardless of how many kids and how many school supply lists, pairs of shoes, and fees invading your wallet this month, I hope these seven tips will help things be a touch more affordable.
Tip 1: Shop the closet first. The simplest way to save starts with taking an inventory of each kid’s closet before heading out clothes shopping. I relate this to shopping from your pantry first when meal planning. Build meals around what you already have on hand. Same concept here. Rather than heading right out to the store with a list, take a minute to shop the closet first. As I’ve done this, I’ve found a pair of shoes purchased on clearance that I forgot about. A hand-me-down pair of jeans that will be perfect for fall, etc.
Tip 2: Stick to a clothing budget. School fees might be set in stone but a clothing budget is flexible. Know before you go how much money you want to spend. Stick to the budget.
Tip 3: Involve kids in spending decisions. Once the budget is set, let the kids help decide how it gets spent. I LOVE the potential money lessons to be learned here! Here are some possible scenarios: Middle schooler – Tell them they have X amount of money and need to find 5 shirts with that money. High schooler - Tell them the entire clothing budget is X and if they want a certain brand of shoe or jeans that cost a little more, then they decide where they can save/cut back on other clothing items to still only spend the total budgeted amount.
Tip 4: Host a school supply swap. Let's talk about ways to save on school supplies. I love the idea that a friend shared with me of hosting a school supply swap. Essentially, you reach out to a few families, plan a time and place to bring new and gently used supplies, and swap/share the items. This is super helpful for items that come in bulk i.e. the 25 pack of glue sticks that’s cheaper than the 5 pack if you split with others. Sharing or repurposing cuts down on costs and waste.
Tip 5: Wait to purchase. Those school supplies are out on display in the stores real early! Wait and only buy what you need and know you’ll use once the school has posted the official list.
Tip 6: Wait for clearance sales. Other benefits of waiting? Hit up the end of summer clearance and late fall/early Christmas sales to pick up the rest of the items on your list -particularly cold weather clothing that kids don't need the first two months of school.
Tip 7: Start saving now for next year. Finally, I recommend you start saving now for next year's school registration, clothing and supply costs. Stashing a little cash away each month in a named savings account (so you’re less tempted to use the money for other things throughout the year) and when August rolls around again next year, you’ve got a stock pile to fall back on.
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