10 ways to trim your back to school expenses

Back to School for Less

by Debbie Swanson


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Back to school time can quickly drain the family budget, particularly for those with multiple children. And as children grow, their tastes and preferences need to be incorporated into the purchases, often pushing up the price tag even further.

So how do you keep a happy balance between your child and your checkbook? Here are ten tips to trim your expenses this fall:

  1. In most areas of the country, the first day of school still feels like summer. Rather than draining your wallet before the first ring of the school bell, suggest your child wear one of their favorite summer outfits. They'll probably be more comfortable than being overdressed in a stiff new outfit. A few weeks into the school year, head out to pick some new, fall outfits. By then, your children may have an idea of the "cool" clothes they would be asking for anyway.

  2. If you can anticipate your child's growth (and tastes), you can purchase fall items deeply discounted at the end of the previous winter. You can bring home new, top quality labels at a fraction of their cost, set them aside, and pull them out at the start of the new season.

  3. Children grow so quickly. Clothing cast aside is often barely worn. When you have a big fall wardrobe to fill, take a look at consignment shops and online auctions. If you keep an open mind, you'll be surprised at how far your dollars will go.

  4. Mid summer, office supply and department stores have price wars on paper goods, pens, crayons, and markers. Perhaps it's to stir up the school shopping instinct. Even if you're not ready for early fall shopping, head out to stock up on these items when the sales hit. Buy enough to last all year, and stash away a few extras for sick days or holidays.

  5. Though shopping is a fun way to generate enthusiasm for the coming school year, make a few initial trips without the kids. Purchase "staples" on these trips, such as solid colored pants, neutral shirts, and other wardrobe basics. Take the children along on subsequent trips and let them accessorize and add their own style to your basics.

  6. Plan to spread your shopping over the calendar year. Head into fall with a handful of new items, then after the holiday season, reap in the post holiday sales and do another wave of school shopping.

  7. Post-holiday season is a great time of year to pick up a winter coat, one size bigger, to set aside for next year. You can save annually if you shift to the habit of buying coats mid-winter rather than early season.

  8. If your children use lunch boxes, purchase extra(s) at the start of the school year. Once school is underway and the stores clear out their original stock of these items, the restock is slim and the cost higher.

  9. Cut the cost of sports equipment by watching for second hand sports sales or yard sales. Children typically change their minds about sports, which means the second-hand equipment may be like new. Or run a quick search on the Internet to locate mail order outlets for many sports accessories.

  10. Join forces with other parents. Office superstores sell notebooks and other supplies in bulk. Team discounts are often available for sports clothing and equipment. Check out the minimum order required and then ask around your child's teammates or friends.

With a little creativity, you can keep your kids well dressed and happy without draining yourself or your wallet!


Take the Next Step:

  • Decide which of these 10 tips you can use.
  • For numerous articles and tips for saving money in school and college costs, visit The Dollar Stretcher Library.
  • Take control of your finances. Subscribe to our weekly "Surviving Tough Times" newsletter. This free html newsletter will provide ways to survive in this challenging economy. Each issue features articles to help you stretch your dollar!

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