August 20, 2009

Back to School on a Budget

By: Karen Saley, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

Summer fun is almost over and it’s time to start thinking about getting the kids ready for school again. With all the other bills you may be having to deal with right now, the thought of buying all those school supplies, books and clothes may being weighing heavy on your mind.

According to the National Retail Federation, the economy has changed some of our shopping habits. We’re looking for more sales, using more coupons, buying more store and generic brands and overall spending less.

To help you keep back to school spending to a minimum here a just a few tips.

First and probably most important…have a plan and a budget. Make a list of all the things that your kids need to get them in shape for the new school year. A list will help you remember what you need to buy and keep you from making those impulse purchases. Then make sure you set a dollar amount. Setting a dollar amount and discussing it with you kids will keep all of you on the right track to staying within your budget. Having a plan and budget will save you time and energy. Another little tip is pay with cash. There is no point in doing all the bargain hunting only to charge the items and pay interest on the purchase. Paying with cash will also help keep you from overspending; handing over the greenbacks always hurts a little more than whipping out the credit card.

Before you head out the door and start trekking through all those stores, start at home. Take an inventory of what you already have laying around the house. Gather up all those pens, pencils, erasers and half used notebooks. You probably already have a calculator, backpack and other durable goods from previous years. Remember, recycling is an easy way to save money.

Now it’s time to actually start shopping…but where to start?

Those wonderful dollar stores are a favorite of mine. You can load up on notebooks, pens, pencils and all the other classroom paraphernalia you need for a fraction of the cost of buying it at drug stores and box stores.

Thrift stores are a good source for note books, binder, calculators and sometimes, even books. While you’re there, you can probably find a bargain on a backpack, lunch box or water bottle.

Garage sales are another place to find some great deals on everything from small electronics, to school supplies to clothing.

Speaking of clothing, thrift stores are a goldmine where you can find some real bargains. Shirts, slacks, dresses, jackets and more can be had for as little as a couple of dollars. Many of these stores even carry the latest name brand clothing. So if you have a child that likes the latest fashions, you may be in luck.

Discount outlets can be a great source for inexpensive clothing. Again, name brand clothing as well as off names can be found in these stores at significant savings. In exchange for the great prices, you may just need to invest a little time to search the racks for those great pieces of clothing.

Consignment shops are another great resource for finding trendy clothing. Some people just get tired of wearing the same clothes and decide to get a little cash for those items. Many times clothing in consignment shops shows very little wear and tear.

Trading with friends is another way of saving some big bucks. Kids have been lending their clothing to each other for years. Why not make it a game involving a bunch of friends and trade some of those clothes you’re a little tired of. What may be old and boring to someone else can be fresh and new to your kids.

Thankfully, there are not too many electronic devices that are essential for school. Calculators can be found at a reasonable price at many discount stores or you may know someone who has a slightly used one sitting in a drawer. Computers are another electronic device that can be found for much less than the going retail price if you do a little shopping. Manufacturers recondition some models due to small design flaws that do not really affect the overall performance of the machine. These reconditioned models can sometimes save you a substantial amount of money.

Don’t forget to check newspaper circulars and internet sources for sales and coupons. If you plan on shopping at one of the popular retail stores, check their website for coupons and sales before you go.

Get your kids involved in the back-to-school shopping experience. Just think. They will have had their first lesson in reading, writing, and arithmetic before the school bell actually rings.

No comments:

Post a Comment