Elementary through High School can get pretty pricey. There are all sorts of things to buy: clothes; shoes; athletic gear or other uniforms; fees for clubs, teams, groups; school supplies such as pens, binders, paper, etc.; school lunches and snacks; transportation to and from school; physicals; books; and extra curricular activity expenses.
Although you may or may not look forward to the kids 'going back to school', I think it is safe to say that most parents do not look forward to the cost associated with their child(ren) going back to school. There are plenty of ways to save... and save significantly. I wanted to write some ideas on how to save so that parents can enjoy this time of year with little-to-no worry about their pocketbooks.
Here are 7 ways to save on school expenses.
1- Set a budget for school clothes and require your kids (depending on age) to actively participate in keeping the budgeted amount. My mom alotted (depending on our age) $150-$250 each for school clothes. Once we hit that threshold we were responsible to buy anything else with our own money. She also had a requirement that we bought a few pairs of shoes, a few warm clothes, and at least a couple pairs of jeans.
As you can see we had to make the money stretch. We would go to the 'outlet mall' to do the bulk of the shopping because the clothes are name brand and good quality but often cost less. Even at the oulet mall we would look for sale and clearanced items.
I would look for sales, deals, clearance items, etc. at regular stores as well. I still do that today. I was surprised at how far my money stretched if I was very conscious about the budget I had been given.
Each year I'd save up in the summer for the back to school shopping and I'd often add about $50-$100 of my own money into my 'school clothes budget' so I could get more clothes.
I learned a lot by knowing in advance what my budget was. I was active in weighing my options, being responsible to sticking to my budget, providing extra money for clothes that didn't fit into the budget, and prioritizing what I wanted vs. what I needed.
Giving your child(ren) a set amount and informing them well beforehand will help them to get creative, be more responsible, and it will give them a chance (if desired) to make more money to contribute and buy more. Further, it will ultimately save you money.
2- Many of my readers know that I love coupons. Valpak is definitely a great source to find coupons for all sorts of back to school supplies. Valpak and Valpak.com have coupons for clothes, shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, haircuts, and even physicals in one place!
3- Pack (or make your kids pack) lunches from home. All growing up we had packed lunches in elementary. When we were old enough we would take sack lunches that we packed from home. Some days life was too hectic and we didn't have enough bread or a particular staple item to pack a lunch. On these days my mom would give us lunch money. Most days though, we took healthy and stomach-filling lunches from home.
I wasn't sure how much school lunch costs today so I asked my sister who has kids in school. She said that grade school lunch costs $2.00 per day in her state. Middle and High school lunches cost $3.25 per day. So if you had 3 children eating school lunches you would be paying an average of $8.50 per day. That is $42.50 per week and just over $1,500.00 per school year!
By stocking the pantry with lunch-friendly foods and either having your kid pack a sack lunch, or you packing it you could save about $1,000 per year ! If you use coupons and buy in bulk you could save even more!... But most importantly, they will be eating foods that you choose and that are healthier for them!
4- Look for school supply sales and coupon matchups. Each summer around July and August there are huge sales on sationary, binders, pens, pencils, etc. Often these companies release great coupons at this time of year as well. I always stock up on glue, glue sticks, pens, pencils, printer paper, lined paper, crayons, colored pencils, tape, and staples at this time of year for the entire coming year. Often you can get these supplies at 60-90% off!! To learn more about how to coupon you can check out this post here.
5- Buy used. Not everything used is in bad condition. Depending on the age of your child they may not even notice -or mind- that the items have been used before. I've found very high quality clothes, sports equipment, back packs, binders, etc. for my family at garage sales and on the local classifieds. Further, if you have a child that is going to be part of an athletic team or other, some of the required equipment can be very pricey. Look on classifieds for used and try to go garage selling a few Saturdays in the summer to look for needed items. If your child takes college courses (AP, Concurent Enrollment, etc.) which I highly recommend doing, they can save considerably by buying used text books.
6- Rent. In Jr. High I had to put on a presentation and dress like the person who I was presenting. Even though we had a lot of costumes at home, nothing really fit the bill. Instead of going out and buying a costume we rented one for half a day which saved us a lot. Renting prom attire will save considerably! Renting books or required educational material from the library will save as well.
7- Carpool, walk, or bike to school. With the rising cost of fuel it will save money to carpool, walk, or bike to school when possible. Our elementary it was close enough that I was able to walk to school with a big group of neighbor friends. Our parents felt it was safe because we were in a large group and it was only 2 blocks away. I grew up carpooling to Jr. High with a few neighbor friends. My mom drove one day of the week. That saved my family a LOT in fuel! Especially considering that the Jr. High I went to was a good 15 minute drive from home.
There are many ways to save, if you have an idea or way that has saved you considerably on school expenses, I'd love to hear it in the comment section below.
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