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Avoiding the Overspending Trap: A Guide to Frugal Back-to-School Shopping

It’s that time of year again – back-to-school shopping season. As exciting as getting brand-new supplies and clothes for your kids may be, it can also be a financial burden. The temptation to overspend is strong, especially when retailers are offering deals left and right.

It’s so much easier to stay on budget when your kids are younger, but when they get older and want expensive items, the shoes, the clothes, it takes a bit more work.

However, with a little planning and strategy, you can navigate this season as a frugal back-to-school shopping pro.

In this post, we will offer a guide to frugal back-to-school shopping, including tips on how to set a budget, stick to it, and avoid common spending traps.

simple- budget planner

Set a Budget

Before you embark on any back-to-school shopping, knowing how much you can afford to spend is important. Look at your finances and determine a realistic budget for each child.

Consider the cost of school supplies, textbooks, backpacks, clothing, and any extracurricular equipment or gear they may need. Next, prioritize and make a list of the essentials.

If you think you’ll take your next paycheck to use for the kid’s school supplies, and you don’t need to figure out a budget- please don’t do that. You need to get honest and look at what you truly can afford and how you can get creative and make it work.

Then, allocate a specific amount to each item on your list. A clear budget and list will keep you from overspending and avoid impulse purchases.

Avoiding the Overspending Trap: A Guide to Frugal Back-to-School Shopping

Here is a general idea of price ranges for school supplies totals, including clothing and shoes.

  1. For a 6-year-old (Kindergarten to Grade 1): At this age, the school supplies list is usually quite basic. You’ll likely need items like crayons, glue sticks, pencils, and paper, which are relatively inexpensive. Clothing costs can also be lower as younger children often have less interest in brand names. The budget could range anywhere from $50 to $100.
  2. For a 10-year-old (Grade 4 to 5): As children age, their school supply lists tend to grow. They might need more expensive calculators, digital learning tools, and basic stationery. They may also start to develop preferences for clothing brands, which can increase the budget. A reasonable range could be $100 to $200. It depends on apparel, driving costs up.
  3. For a 16-year-old (High school): High school students often have the most expensive needs. They may require specialized supplies for certain courses and costly sports equipment for extracurriculars, and they often have strong preferences for clothing brands. Technology needs also increase – they may require a laptop or tablet. This could push the budget to $300 or more.

Remember, these are rough estimates, and the actual costs can vary. I

back to school shopping tips

Shop Smart

One of the key ways to save money during back-to-school shopping is by being a smart shopper. Look out for deals and discounts, and don’t be afraid to shop around.

Comparison shop to ensure you get the best price on an item before you purchase it. Many retailers offer price matching, so take advantage of it.

Target is my favorite store to price match. Most of the time, the items are cheaper on Target’s website than in-store; all you have to do is show that price on the Target app.

Tap here for some of my favorite stores for deals on school supplies.

five below store front

Also, consider buying in bulk or purchasing generic brands, which can be just as good as name brands at a fraction of the cost.

Backpacks, lunch bags, kids’ clothes, and sneakers are a great deal at wholesale clubs like Sam’s, BJ’s, and Costco.

Always try thrift stores in your area for anything school-related, especially clothes. I’m still shocked at how many amazing finds we see at our Goodwill clearance ( or Bins) stores.

I’ve always had success at church garage sales for school supplies. This year we found new folders and binders for only $0.25 each!

impulse shopping back to school savings

Avoid Impulse Purchases

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of back-to-school shopping and impulse buying. However, these purchases can add up quickly and bust your budget. To avoid impulse buying, stick to your list and don’t deviate.

Also, avoid shopping with kids, as they may want to buy more than necessary. If you take your kids along, give them a budget and explain that they need to stick to it.

I take my kids one at a time for the clothing and shoe shopping part. They tend to influence each other and cause more stress when we try to stick to a budget and find deals.


Repurpose and Reuse

Before you head out to buy new items, take inventory of what you already have. Many things, such as backpacks, lunch boxes, clothing, folders, and binders, can be repurposed and reused.

Look for items that are still in good condition and can be used for another year.

Don’t be afraid to Dawn powerwash those lunchboxes and backpacks and get them shiny and clean for the kids. The younger ones will love the new look and may even forget about wanting a new one.

Also, take advantage of sales on items for next year. For example, if you know your child will need a new winter coat next year, purchase it during this year’s end-of-season sales. Just like shopping in season for your produce, you need to shop next season for your clothing items.

walmart back to school supplies 2023

Plan for the Future

Finally, it’s important to plan for the future regarding back-to-school shopping. Remember that your child will likely need new items throughout the year, such as gym clothes, school projects, and replacement supplies.

Print this savings jar to help you save for your school supplies or anything to get the kids excited about budgeting and saving.

Avoiding the Overspending Trap: A Guide to Frugal Back-to-School Shopping

Set aside a little extra money in case of unexpected expenses. Also, plan for next year’s shopping and create a budget and list ahead of time.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be a financial burden. It’s possible to complete your shopping without overspending by being a smart and strategic shopper.

Set a budget, shop smart, avoid impulse purchases, repurpose and reuse, and plan for the future. Using these tips, you can ensure a successful back-to-school shopping season that won’t empty your wallet.

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