By Charlestien Harris
Let’s face it, back-to-school shopping is going to be expensive this year. Not only do you have a lot to buy, but inflation is also driving up prices. If you didn’t anticipate school supplies becoming pricier, you’re not alone. Getting your kids ready for school can be stressful, especially if your finances are already tight due to economic challenges.
Have you considered setting up a back-to-school budget? Think about it – you budget for everything else, so why not for this time of year as well? Start by creating a list of needs and prioritize them from most pressing to least. This approach will help you stay on track. Just like any other endeavor, you need a plan. By jotting down the cost of each item on your list, you can determine your total budget to cover these expenses. Going back-to-school shopping without a budget will only lead to overspending. Therefore, it’s crucial to establish a spending limit and maintain the discipline not to exceed it. Make sure your limit is sufficient to encompass all the items on your list. If you realize you can’t afford everything on your list, don’t worry! There are several ways to acquire school supplies without breaking the bank, and some are even free. Check out the following tips.
Many local organizations host back-to-school supply events that are open to the public, which provide a range of free school supplies, along with food, school uniforms, haircuts, and family-friendly activities. Information about these events is typically available through local newspapers, posted notices, social media, church bulletins, and, of course, word of mouth. Some school districts also organize such events, so visit your local school website for more details.
Opt for Generic & Compare Prices
Brand-name items can be quite pricey, but you can save by opting for generic brands. Store brands often offer items of similar quality and variety. Additionally, comparing prices can help you stick to your budget. While you’re out comparison shopping, don’t overlook thrift stores or the dollar store. These establishments can offer significant savings on name-brand items as well as the generic brands on your shopping list.
Space Out Your Shopping
You don’t need to purchase an entirely new wardrobe before school starts – no matter how much your kids insist. Spread out your spending over several months to ease the strain on your budget. The allure of back-to-school sales is undeniable, but remember that other sales will come along. Trust me on this: Buy a few things this month, and a few more next month. Avoid blowing your budget in August. Not only is that a risky financial decision, but kids often grow another inch or two by mid-semester, necessitating yet another shopping trip.
Explore the Dollar Store
You might be surprised by the quality items available at your local dollar store. They sometimes receive random shipments of name-brand products that sell for up to four times the price in other stores. Moreover, certain items like clipboards, poster board, planners, and pens are just as good there as anywhere else. Some stores even offer price matching if you find a better deal elsewhere.
Borrow or Trade School Supplies
If you have an excess of colored pencils and your friend has an abundance of notebooks, a swap could benefit both of you. Uniform exchanges are also a smart option if you’re looking to avoid spending a fortune on a new school outfit. Sometimes, leftover supplies are discarded, presenting an excellent opportunity for savings. Hand-me-downs were a lifesaver for me when my kids were growing up, helping me stick to my back-to-school budget.
In any case, you can adhere to your budget by making specific moves to achieve your back-to-school savings goal. This month, you’re likely to encounter enough sale promotions that you probably won’t need to pay full retail price for anything.
For more information about this and other financial topics, please feel free to contact me at Charlestien.Harris@banksouthern.com or call me at 662-624-5776.
Until next week – stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region.