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“Back-to-School Season” is upon us

Does anyone remember the “Most Wonderful Time of Year” Staples commercial with the parent happily putting back-to-school supplies in the cart, while their kids miserably trail behind them, all while the “It’s the most wonderful time of year” Christmas song plays in the background? First off, great marketing campaign. Funny, and catchy, with most parents feeling like they could relate.

However, with recent inflation costs, school supplies could possibly feel like a parent is spending just as much as they would on items for Christmas. So, in a world of increasing prices, how do you fight inflation costs, along with the back-to-school blues?

Below we give our top tips to help you save at the register this Back-to-School Season

Tip #1: Take Inventory – Before you even start browsing the aisles, or surfing the web for back-to-school items, make sure you are going through last year’s supplies. Are there folders that were not used? Notebooks with only a few pages used that can be ripped out? Binders that are still in good shape? How about glue, pencils, etc.? Have you gone through closets and dresser drawers? Are there items that still fit and are in nice condition that perhaps you don’t need as many pairs of pants or tops as you once thought you did? Finding out what you already have, could save you from buying repeated, unnecessary items.

Tip #2: Make a list and outline a budget – Know what you need to shop for before you start back-to-school shopping. Also, knowing how much you are willing and wanting to spend overall is a good way to set yourself up for success by staying within budget and not overspending. Remember, as Rachel Cruze says, “a budget gives you the freedom to buy without guilt”. If you have your budget laid out, and you find an item you want to splurge on, you can do so without feeling like you are breaking the bank for no reason!

Tip #3: Don’t “one-stop shop” – I know it may be easier to just go to one store and buy everything all at once, but you can find better deals if you shop around at several stores over time. Remember, big box stores that accommodate “one-stop shopping” are using target marketing to lure you to their stores right now, which may in the end not have the best deals. Some stores to consider looking at before going to the big box stores: The Family Dollar/Dollar Tree, TJ Maxx/Marshalls, or a local surplus store if you have one in your area. You can usually find back-to-school supplies at a lower cost at the dollar and surplus stores. And at TJ Maxx or Marshalls, you can find name-brand items, without the name-brand costs.

Tip #4: Shop quality – I know we just said don’t buy with “name-brand costs”, but we have found over time, that the quality of materials, usually withstands longer periods of time. Which means you don’t have to replace them as often. Things that would fall into this tip include not only clothes, and footwear that get worn often, but your child’s backpack and lunch box that get carried on a daily basis. Not to mention that book bag and lunch box take on the beating of the locker/cubby, bus, and sometimes hallway floor. Having something that can withstand the constant, everyday wear-and-tear is worth the extra dollars in the long run.

Tip #5: Shop your Tax-Free Holiday – Every state is different, so make sure you look up your specific state’s weekend and stipulations as some things may be excluded. However, if you go into this back-to-school shopping “holiday” with a plan (*cough cough, tip #2) you can score some real money-saving bargains. For more tips on how to best utilize your state’s tax-free holiday, and if your state does this, check out the article, State Tax-Free Weekends for 2022.

Tip #6: Let your kids have an opinion – Getting your kids involved and getting them excited about things will not only help with the ease of actually going back to school, but they will see all the new things they are getting rather than thinking of the things they “didn’t get”. To help them with the overall experience, have a conversation with them before shopping. Discuss the items that are truly needed from your inventory process, ask them what is something they maybe “really want” this year for school, and talk through what it would mean to get that item. If it is an expensive item, they may not be able to get “x, y, and z other items” to offset the costs. In coaching, we call these “opportunity costs”. It helps kids start to learn about money habits, and budgeting in a simple way. And as Dave saves, more is “caught than taught”, so showing them these good money habits now, will help them later on in life.

Tip #7: Delay the shopping if you can - As I said in Tip#1, take a look at what you have. Are there things that can be carried over from last year for their back-to-school items this year? Are the kiddos just as excited about their lunch box that is still in good condition you bought last school year (because you took tip #4 into consideration and got a quality item that lasted maybe?) and are fine with using it again? If so, why not save the dollars and reuse those items until you need one later on? Also, the longer you wait, the more time you are giving the stores to put these items on *sale*. That’s right. Eventually, the stores are going to want to start making room for their Fall/Winter and Holiday items and will start putting their back-to-school things on sale to clear the space and inventory for their new items of focus. This goes from clothes and shoes to backpacks and lunch boxes, to even some school supplies.

*Bonus Tip – Start a Sinking Fund! * - This may not help you this year when it comes to back-to-school shopping, however, it can help prepare you for next year’s shopping. Not familiar with what a sinking fund is, refer to Whitaker-Myers Wealth Manager’s Website, in their blog section, there is an article explaining the basics of a sinking fund, and how to set one up to help you be proactive with your budgeting for known expenses throughout the year.


August 12, 2022

Lindsey Curry

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