Time for back-to-school shopping! Aside from the mid-year field trip or random science project, August is typically the one month where you spend a lot of money on school stuff, which means it could potentially mess up your regular spending plan. Don’t worry! We’ve got a few tips to help you stay on track.
Adjust Your Budget for Success
First, you need to assess and modify your spending plan to fit potentially hundreds of dollars into this month’s list of expenses. Parents spend an average of $630 on back-to-school purchases,1 so planning ahead is essential.
Look at how much money you have available. How much money in savings can and should go towards education costs? How much of your discretionary spending can you allocate for your shopping trip?
Make a list of all the supplies you will need to get. Did the teacher provide a list of books and tools? Do you need to buy a school uniform? Check your drawers and closets for supplies and clothing first so you don’t spend money on things you already have available. And remember to bring your list of items so you can stick to what you need. (If you don’t have a list, you’re more likely to either buy more than necessary or forget something and have to spend more on gas going back for the items.)
If you still need to make a few extra bucks before you head to the mall, grab any items collecting dust in your back closet and throw a garage sale, then put the proceeds toward your back-to-school fund.
Make a (Thrifty) Fashion Statement
You know your kids will ask for the latest and greatest fashion trends. Dime-store tennis shoes for the first day of school just won’t cut it – they prefer the hundred-dollar shoes. Of course, you look at your wallet, remember the mortgage and the backpack full of desk supplies you already paid for, and brace yourself for the tantrum that comes after you say, “No.”
Hold up. There may be a way.
Before you go shopping, check for coupons, discounts and rebates. Look at sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, ibotta andRetailMeNot. These sites give you deals that could make big-ticket items more affordable and budget friendly. Just remember to peruse their offers before you get in the car so you can plan where you need to go; for example, you might find a coupon for those expensive shoes, but it only works at a particular retailer.
You could also see if there’s an outlet store near you that carries major shoe brands (or other school stuff) at discount prices, and you can look for student discounts on everything from clothes to electronics (just don’t forget to bring a valid student ID).
Protect Your Purchases
Did you know that 85% of parents plan on using their smartphones for buying school materials?2 If you decide to use your phone for shopping online or pulling up coupons, remember to check security before making a transaction. Look for the lock symbol and https before the web address, which signifies the proper Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection.
Do not use a random Wi-Fi network while shopping online. Fraudsters set up fake Wi-Fi networks that look like legitimate business internet connections, and they hack your device when you connect to their phony network.
Also check your receipts and credit card statements for any possible errors, like being charged twice for something or not receiving proper credit for a coupon.
Work with a Professional
Preparing your budget for back-to-school purchases, extra trips to the gas station for driving back and forth from school, and money for field trips and extracurricular activities can seem like a daunting objective. Your Money Coach and Budget Specialist can help your family start the school year on a good financial foot. Your Money Coach can provide suggestions and options you may not have considered. And don’t forget Wallet: our personal financial management software that shows all your account activity in one place, allows you to set spending goals and alerts, and more, which makes it easier to be smart with your money while you shop. Call 888-724-2326 or visit our website to get started.