Back to School Budgeting Guide

Back to School Budgeting guide for caregivers | Staying Financially Healthy | Reverse Your Thinking® Mortgage with Mathius Marc Gertz "Back To School" writing with color pencil background
Back to School Budgeting Guide | Staying Financially Healthy | Reverse Your Thinking® Mortgage

It’s Back-to-school season!  The shopping season is in full swing from early July through late September. Back-to-school shopping can be hard on a budget. Use this back-to-school budgeting guide to plan out your spending.

School Supplies
  • Before you go out and buy school supplies, take stock of what you already have in drawers or on bookshelves at home. There’s no need to start again every year! Backpacks, lunch boxes, pencil cases, and binders can be reused as long as they are still in good condition. 
  • Many schools establish accounts with major online retailers, and a portion of your purchase benefits the school. You might also ask your child’s teachers what classroom supplies they still need, as many teachers purchase goods with their own money.
  • Smart shopping – Plan your shopping. – Make a budget for your child and motivate them to stick to it when shopping for supplies.
  • Buy and Share bulk items. – If you have more than one child or neighbors who need folders, loose-leaf paper, facial tissue, and pencils or have a similar shopping list. You can save money by buying certain things in large quantities and sharing them and the cost with other students.
  • Online coupons – Social media, blogs, and websites provide school supply coupons. Always do your homework to find out when stores offer their most significant seasonal discounts.
School Clothes
  • Children usually outgrow their clothes quickly. Your child may need to have their feet measured, or they may have worn through their summer shoes. Sit down with your child and help them go through their closets to make things go smoothly. Giving you a chance to talk about charity, they might find something they can give to their younger brothers, sisters, cousins, or neighbors.
  • Clothing Swap – Consider having a clothing swap with family, friends, or neighbors before taking the old clothes to the donation center. You can trade gently used clothes, toys, and even school supplies, like that character backpack your child no longer wants. Your children will get new-to-them clothes, and you’ll have a clutter-free closet!  Clothing swap also works well if your children have school uniforms.
  • Shop Thrift – Your child can develop their style without big-box stores. Let children shop at a thrift store. Consignment stores and garage sales may have treasures. Most thrift store apparel can be high-quality and cheap; shop early to get the best deals.
  • Seasonal sales – As the new school year gets closer, there will be a lot of back-to-school and end-of-summer sales in stores and online. These sales usually last until the end of August or the beginning of September and can save you a lot of money on clothes. 
  • You can also buy next summer’s clothes now online during these sales. You might not always know what your child’s size will be, but you could make a guess. For example, if they wear a youth small this summer, you could buy summer clothes for youth medium on sale and save them for next summer.
Technology and Gadgets
  • Tech alternatives –  Choose devices with the best value for your money. Instead of a laptop, consider a tablet and keyboard for your child. It does the same things but costs less overall.
  • Pre-owned and refurbished gadgets – Buying pre-owned tablets, laptops, and iPhones saves money. Choose trusted products. Apple, Dell, Samsung, and HP have officially refurbished online shops. Other Reputable retailers like offer “certified” reconditioned tech with warranties and money-back guarantees.
  • Set up price alerts. Price-tracking apps help you save money. These apps deliver price alerts and compare prices across thousands of retailers.
  • Price check, Price Match – Some big-box stores will match lower prices on items you find elsewhere.
  • Student discounts – Select retailers offer discounts specifically for students. Examples include Adobe, Apple, Best Buy, Dell, HP, and Microsoft. You’ll probably need to enter your child’s student ID at checkout.
Don’t Forget the Activities.
  • Don’t forget these often-forgotten costs when making a budget for your child’s school supplies. Planning ahead of time for sports fees, field trips, teacher holiday gifts, and book fairs might help prevent sticker shock later in the year. 
  • If your child is starting kindergarten this year, you could inquire about last year’s expenses with the PTA or another parent. The past year’s costs can help older children estimate this year’s expenses. If you live in a two-parent household, it may be good to discuss what costs you are willing to cover with your partner or spouse. 
  • If your child wants to play travel soccer, but you don’t have the money for it, finding other children who play soccer for fun and organizing get-togethers for your child might be helpful. Buying lightly used helmets and sticks could save you money if your child plays an expensive sport like hockey, which can cost thousands of dollars every season.
Dorm Furniture
  • Focus on the essentials, need-to-haves instead of the nice-to-haves. It’s easy to get carried away, be realistic. Your child does not need an expensive coffee maker or high-end throw pillows. They might think these items are necessary, the reality is the really do not.
  • This thought process highlights a financial planning issue that many people struggle with – not acting impulsively.  If the line between need and want is blurred, this should prompt a conversation about healthy boundaries and long-term financial responsibility.  
  • Usually, most dorm rooms include basic furnishings such as a bed, desk, and dresser. Ask other college students in your life about their experiences—what things they used frequently and which ones were unnecessary.
  • Before buying new stuff, look around the house. Just because your child is relocating does not require buying all new items. Use what you already have, whether an extra bedspread in the linen closet or an old set of dishes in the basement. Relatives may be willing to give hand-me-downs as well. Yard sales are a great source of pre-loved home goods.
  • Consider versatile, multifunctional furniture. If you want to add something special, multifunctional pieces can save you money, and you can use them for years! Some suggestions: a couch with storage beneath the cushions and a nightstand that also functions as a computer desk.
  • Divide the cost with your roommate. A dorm room does not require two microwaves, two refrigerators, or two garbage cans. 
  • Before school starts, have your child contact their roommate to discuss packing lists. Perhaps one person brings a printer, and another buys a coffee machine. You’ll also save dorm space and reduce duplicates!