Confession? Back-to-school is my favorite time of year. I’m a mom and I’m a teacher. I equally love preparing for the students I will teach as much as I enjoy preparing my own children for the upcoming school year.
Tips for Back to School Savings
Still, as much as I swoon over school supplies and beam for backpacks, back-to-school shopping gets expensive. Now that I’m a mother of four, I’ve implemented a few key practices for back to school savings.
Everything Doesn’t Have to be New
I’m such a sucker for the aesthetic of freshly packaged markers piled up in a colorful tower, and I love seeing reams of lined paper stacked neatly on store shelves. Don’t even get me started on the racks full of this season’s clothing. Still, everything changed for the better with my back-to-school budget when I stopped feeling the pressure to get new everything for all of my children each year.
Quality backpacks last for years, nicely made clothes last until kids get too big, scissors and plastic folders don’t get used up, and hand-me-downs are as ecological as they are economical.
Consider a Special School Item Instead
Because my kids have so many great gently used items, I skip the urge to splurge on a completely new wardrobe or all new-in-package supplies and instead let each of them select their own special school item.
Sometimes it’s a ridiculously expensive marker set, sometimes it’s a pair of completely impractical sparkly sandals, and sometimes it’s a lunchbox without a cartoon character for a kid moving to middle school. Our special school item has become one of my favorite back-to-school traditions. I’m always impressed with what my kids pick for the year.
Obviously, some things have to be purchased new. Tissues, for example, really can’t be repurposed without turning your child into a primary school pariah.
Here I’m going to say something that might shock you, you don’t have to send all your school items to open house or even on the first day of school. I’m serious!
You can send them a few days or even a few weeks after school begins if you want to wait for another paycheck or better prices. I usually just let my kids’ teachers know my child’s Clorox wipes and Ziploc bags will be coming a little later. To date, we’ve had no issues when we’ve sent supplies a little bit later.
Shop All Year
I’m now acutely aware of the school supply items that become incredibly hard to find or price-inflated as the calendar flips from July to August. (I’m looking at you, Ticonderoga pre-sharpened pencils.)
So when I see those high-priced items at a good price or in abundance, I throw a few in my cart and save them for the return of the school year.
As far as tennis shoes go, my kids get new shoes when they outgrow their current pair, period. This may or may not be at the start of the school year. It’s great to spread out the expense of children’s shoes over our entire year’s clothing budget.
Shop at Home for School Supplies First
At the end of the school year, I make my kids empty their returned supplies from their backpacks into a storage bin. We start with the items in this tote before we head to the store for replacements. Often times things in our home supply box have lots of life left.
I’m not above ripping out a used page or two from a spiral notebook and sending it back to be used again. Honestly, this hack makes me feel frighteningly frugal. But we’ve all wondered why the kids only used three pages in their math journal, haven’t we? Might as well let it have a chance at a second school year.
Patio pictures on the first day of a new year are one of the joys of the back-to-school experience. Social media makes it too easy to compare what your kids are wearing with all your friends and neighbors. Sometimes I wish I had just sucked it up, spent the money, and prepared a crisply ironed, brand-spanking-new, head-to-toe outfit for each of my kids. Just so I can keep up appearances.
Then I remember how blessed I am to have four healthy children to send to school each year. I also keep in mind families who struggle to provide enough food for their child’s breakfast. I remember that for many, a new backpack, filled with fresh supplies, exists only in their dreams. And I stop stressing.
Start Stressing Less
These realities help put everything in perspective. I’ve stopped stressing, and it’s okay with me if you do the same. With these tips for back-to-school savings, this time of year doesn’t have to break the bank to be the best of times.