How to Go Back to School Shopping without Maxing Your Credit Cards

It’s not just a brown paper bag, a number two pencil, and a notebook any more. It’s a pocket-breaking, power shopping, mental challenge. Going to school just isn’t what it used to be, and either is the back-to-school shopping bill. You can do it. Parents everywhere have faith in you, but first, put away your wallet  and make a plan…

..and now you have 5 years of credit card debt

Necessity is the mother of nature.
Oh, yes. I am sure your child has brought two things on this year’s exciting back to school shopping trip. His or her school supply list and his or her list. One of them is full of things your child may actually need at school. The other is full of things your child just absolutely must have because Billy, Sally, Frank and the always trendy Cinnamon, will have it at school. Approach with caution, reason must beat pleading. The number one way to save money on back to school shopping is to only buy what you need. I like to think of back to school shopping as a yearly refresh rather than a complete swap-out. First go through your kids current clothing and remove anything too small or damaged for re-use. This gives you a chance to find out what’s needed and what your kids are just going to try to talk you into buying.

When faced with extra item requests, let your school goer state their case, let their lovely logic flow, but if they can’t properly justify why there is “need” for an item stand firm and say no. Tell them to save up and buy it with their own money. This teaches responsibility and a respect for ones things, as well as saves your wallet.

Avoid the big names, but shop big.

Brand names are code for big bill. The majority of the time there is no difference. You can get the same quality plain white tank top at Wal-Mart for four dollars as you can at a mall shop for twenty. Compare prices before you buy for school, don’t allow you child to simply throw everything on the list in the cart and head for the clothing racks. Stop, calculate, and save. It’s also a good idea to scout the area stores and online before actually buying anything for back to school. I realize this sounds ridiculously time consuming, but shopping around for school supplies really does save money. Get a general idea of who has what for less, and buy from more than one store. Sometimes thrift stores can be helpful even at this point, you’d be surprised how many of them carry things like binders, note books, rulers, scissors etc. that are fairly generic so you’ll likely hear little whining from the kids and save a good amount of money while you’re at it.

Second, if they’ll need it all school year, buy it in bulk now while all those hot back to school sales are going on, store it someplace, and then give it to your child as they need it. This works really well for things like pencils, pens, and paper. Avoid giving bulk stores to your child if you go this route, however. They may feel like sharing the school wealth if they have it or simply lose pencil after pencil daily because, “Hey, I have like a hundred, who cares?”

Be a coupon clipping, tree hugger.

It’s like this paper you can use as money..wait..

How is that possible? First, recycle any unused supplies your child actually saved from last year. If they brought it home that is. This can save big on items like scientific calculators and back packs. If they have older siblings who no longer use certain supplies, hand it down, use it again. Coupons aren’t exactly earth friendly I know, all those poor trees, but they’re already dead. Those who take the time to check the local paper and web sites of stores they plan to back to school shop at do save. Some stores even offer coupons like “Spend 100 dollars get 25 off” which apply to all purchases. This is also a good shopping trip to save any special promotional mailed offers just for you for. (Rewards programs, etc.) If you’re shopping online check out cash back programs such as Ebates, utilize couponing apps such as Ibotta, every penny counts.

Basically, remain calm, remain in control of that cart and shop smart. You’ll greatly reduce your back to school shopping bill and make your back to school shopping trip possibly a bit less stressful, if you can find a parking place. Good Luck.

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