Data is starting to pile in now on just how much families are spending per child on back-to-school supplies, PPE, clothing and electronics. So far, we’re tracking at just over $ 325 per child with approximately two thirds of that going toward clothing and electronics. The rest is being used for traditional supplies like pencils and notebooks.
Not surprisingly, the older the child, the greater the costs. And, if your kid is headed to college, university, trade or technical school, well, these expenses can easily run into the thousands for laptops, phones and specialty supplies like lab coats and text books.
After running household budgets fairly lean the past 21 months during the pandemic, this high cash outlay can be a bit of a shock to the financial system for parents and also for students who are older and funding back-to-school costs on their own.
That’s why it’s important to plan in advance and be resourceful. Resourcefulness can come in the forms of cashing in loyalty points, utilizing unused or partly used gift cards or simply shopping throughout the year when products go on sale, rather than all at once.
Follow these tips to save on back-to-school shopping:
- Have a plan and a clear budget prior to shopping. If you can’t afford everything on your list, trim back rather than go into debt, which won’t help anyone.
- Prioritize what you need. If you’re tight on cash, put your money toward the most important elements of learning, such as having the correct, not necessarily the “fanciest,” computer software or calculator.
- Take an inventory of what you already have prior to shopping. Duplicating supplies costs money and harms the environment. In most cases, dusting off an old binder can make it look new again. You can take this one step further by cross referencing this against the supply list issued by your local school board.
- Shop in stores with concrete floors. Many wholesalers offer excellent back-to-school bulk-buying opportunities on pencils, notebooks, clothing and electronics. This is especially useful for large families or groups of friends, who can split up the stash and reduce costs.
- Space your shopping throughout the year and according to the course syllabus, which outlines when certain sections of material will be covered throughout the year. There’s no need to load up with everything all at once. New running shoes can be purchased on Cyber Monday and a new backpack at the end of September.
- Look at the second-hand market for clothes, equipment and electronics. I put myself through university using second-hand computers, printers and more. It was a fantastic way to shave a good 60 per cent off the whole bill. Supercharge this strategy by selling old gear you’re no longer using.
- Share electronics. If you’ve got young children, it’s unlikely they need their own computer. Share mainstay electronics with the entire family.
- Get kids to contribute. If you have older children who are working part-time jobs or even doing side jobs like yard cleanup or babysitting, have them contribute a certain amount to the shopping list. Contrary to what you may think, kids who pay for some of their own gear benefit from learning more about money management, and they may be a bit more inclined to take better care of their things.
- Take advantage of what you have. If you benefited from any of the extra COVID-19 learning subsidies for students, and haven’t spent the money already, it will complement these tips nicely.
Growing up in a home where we lived below the low-income line for the entirety of my school-aged years, we tried to make the most of this season by hunting for deals like it was a fun game — the more we saved, the more everyone would win. Try that approach to lighten the mood if you’re feeling financial anxiety because of the back-to-school season.