It’s that time of year again…the return of the school year. While your children may be lamenting the end of the summer, it can also be a pain point for parents too. Let’s face it; preparing for back to school can be expensive.

According to the 2017 Huntington Bank Backpack Index, back to school costs can vary depending on grade level, but can range from a whopping $662 to $1489 per child. That’s a good chunk of change, and if you have multiple kids in school it can add up fast.

So how can you save money on back to school? Here are 7 tips for saving money on back to school items:

1. Take an inventory of what you already have

Despite what your kids may say or want, they don’t need everything to be new for back to school. In order to avoid spending money on unnecessary expenses, first take an inventory of what you already have.

Create one list of what you already have and then another list of what you need. Only replace or upgrade items if you have to. So, that means if their tennis shoes still fit and are their computer still works, there’s no need to upgrade and buy new ones just because it’s a new year.

2. Avoid name brands

We all remember what it’s like being in school and wanting to keep up with the cool kids. You want to have the name brands, the fancy items, and not feel like you’re missing out. But paying for name brands on clothing, technology, and other back to school items can add unnecessary costs and hurt your budget.

Only buy name brand items if you know that the quality will be worth it in the long run. But, for items like pencils, pens, folders, and most clothing, go for the generic brands and save some money.

Going to places like Target or Walmart can help, and you can even look online to see if there are better back to school deals there.

3. Only buy what your children need

It can be fun for the kids to go back to school shopping and get prepared for school. There’s a certain excitement and a feeling of starting fresh. After making a list of what you already have, you know what you need to buy.

But when you’re actually in a store with your children, it’s easy to have Shiny Object Syndrome, where your child wants something nice, new and shiny. They might plead, beg, and feel like they have to have it.

Have the willpower to say no. If you want to take it a step further, don’t even bring them when shopping for back to school supplies! Taking care of business by yourself without the temptation and requests from your children may help you stay on budget.

4. Get cash back when shopping online using Ebates

You may be able to find some great deals when shopping online. Before you do any online shopping be sure to sign-up for Ebates, a cashback site. When shopping at partner sites, you will get a percentage of cash back.

I use Ebates and get cash back on items I was already going to spend money on anyway. I have installed the Ebates Chrome extension which makes it a breeze to save money when I’m shopping online.

When it’s time to get paid, I get the money sent directly to my PayPal account. So before buying anything online make sure you are getting cash back on eligible sites.

5. Buy in bulk for certain items

If you know you need items in bulk like snacks, pencils, pens, etc. go to a place like Costco or Sam’s Club to buy items in bulk.

You can save money by buying in bulk and save yourself from future trips. Another idea is to connect with other parents and discuss what items you need in bulk and you can share the costs.

The key with buying bulk is making sure you actually need what you’re buying in bulk or else you’ll be stuck with a large quantity of stuff that could just be collecting dust. Save the bulk items for stuff you know that you will use by the end of the school year.

6. Check for coupons first

Before spending any money on back to school items check for coupons first. There may be physical coupons in your local paper but there are many coupons online as well. On Coupon Chief, you can find coupons for school supplies, office supplies and more.

You may also want to sign-up for the newsletters of your favorite stores and see if you get emailed any coupon codes or promotions. It pays to spend a little bit of time upfront to search for coupons and save.

7. Do a back to school clothing/item supply swap with other parents

Instead of going out and buying everything new, consider doing a clothing and item swap with other parents. You might have some old stuff that might be a great fit for another family and they might have some things that you need too.

Get the parents in your community together to bring their old items that they may not need — like clothes their children have outgrown, or extra school supplies they don’t use — and swap and share!

Bottom line

Buying back to school items can be costly and take a bite out of your budget. While it’s tempting to want to buy everything new and get everything that your child’s heart desires, you have to set a budget and find ways to save. Using these seven tips, you can avoid overspending on back to school items and buy only what you need to prepare for the school year.

Do you have any other back to school savings tips to share?


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