Tips to Save Money on Back-to-School Supplies
So, you have your list and you’re ready to go shopping for back-to-school supplies. Even though it’s stressful, back-to-school time is an exciting time for kids and parents alike. With the right attitude, your kids will be happy to go back to school and you’ll feel as if you’ve done the right thing with the supplies you send them with.
Set a Realistic Budget: The first thing to do is set a realistic budget. The budget should be based on what the school says your child needs, plus allow a few items that your child wants. Keep in mind that you should avoid buying just what your child wants for materials for school, because the school may not even allow your child to use them. Save wants for clothing and extras. Also, make sure that clothing, hairstyles and makeup (for older kids) meet your school’s dress code.
Organize What You Have: Before stepping out the door to shop, find out what your child already has that will still work from last year. Also, what will work for your younger child that your older child has already used? Don’t overlook friends and family with older kids as a good resource for hand-me-downs.
Go to Garage Sales and Thrift Stores: Don’t overlook these places to get name-brand items that your kids will like. You don’t have to take them with you or ever tell them you went to a garage sale or thrift store. However, it is good family money management, along with good environmental practice, to avoid buying new unless you must.
Don’t Forget the Dollar Store: Don’t overlook the dollar store for good supplies. They have name-brand items often, but don’t always assume they’re cheaper. A few pennies can make a difference. Use an app like Retail Me Not to ensure that you’re buying the cheapest.
Buy on Tax Holidays: Most communities have a special no-tax date for shopping for school supplies. This is a great time to get those last-minute items but usually, it’s so close to the first day of school that you don’t want to wait that long to find sales.
Use Coupons: You can often get coupons by following your favorite companies on social media, especially Twitter. They send out coupons all the time. Plus, your local Sunday paper, magazines, and stores have coupons too during special times.
Shop in Bulk: When you see a sale and you know it’s a good one of something that doesn’t expire (like notebooks, pens, paper, pencils and so forth), if you have the extra money to do so, buy it up and store it someplace where you can easily get to it for next year.
Watch for Sales: Throughout the year, keep in mind what you’re going to need in the future and watch for sales on those items. The more often you can buy things when it’s planned, the less hit you’ll take on your budget.
Needs Over Wants: One thing to learn and to teach children during this process is that needs are more important than wants. Wants are awesome and should be encouraged because it helps with creativity. But, when the money is tight, the wants should be put aside to cover the needs. There is nothing wrong with that, because we must all think of people who can’t even meet their needs. If we are meeting our needs, we’re the lucky ones.
Using these ideas to stick to your budget to help with financing your child’s school year will not only help your child with school, but it’ll also help you as a family learn to save more, think before buying, and probably create a smaller footprint on the environment without even thinking about it. It’ll all become second nature.
How to Get Free School Supplies
There are many ways to get free things for your school and for your child. But, if you start with looking after the whole student body and not just your own child, there are a lot of things that can be done to help with general school supplies and filled backpacks. Let’s look at a few ideas.
Start a Box Top Club: Box Tops for Education (http://www.boxtops4education.com/)is a wonderful way to get basically free money for your school. What’s more, so many box tops are just thrown away each day and not turned in for funding, so the opportunity is large. You can learn how one senior in high school did this in this news report from 2012: http://whnt.com/2012/05/22/huntsville-students-raise-money-awareness-with-box-tops-drive/ It’s shocking how much a school can earn with a good Box Tops program.
Organize a School Supply Drive: A great way to help your child’s school and not take much out of your own pocket is to have a school supply drive. List the things your school needs, and then pick a date and place to collect them. If you make sure to get the word out via local media and social media, you may save everyone money.
Start an Online Club: Everyone is on Facebook these days. You can easily start a Facebook group that is designed to help fill the backpacks of all the kids in your child’s school, not just your own. You can even create a video and make it go viral so that more people want to donate to the cause. They can even donate right through Facebook if you set it up correctly.
Look at Other Online Groups: Freecycle.org is a great place to seek school supplies. You can post a request for your area and people will voluntarily give away their stuff if you pick it up. People give away useful things all the time via Freecycle, from paper to art supplies to costumes – it’s all there.
Check with Churches: If not your own church, other churches may have programs in place to help the less fortunate. Get on the phone and call them one by one, and you’re sure to find one that it is willing to help you or help others too. If nothing else, they may be able to point you in the right direction.
Involve the Senior Center: Many seniors that like to go to the senior center have resources to help people if only they were asked. A lot of them like to help children learn to read. If you let them know about the issue with some kids needing supplies, they may start a program for their local schools.
Check Out Backpack Programs: There are a few backpack programs that offer free backpacks with supplies in them. How effective these are, depends on if they use the list your school uses to fill the backpacks. You can start a program yourself; even if your child is not the one in need, there are certainly others.
The School District: It may not be announced anyplace but in some cases for children who are on the free lunch program or who are at a certain level of poverty, the school district must supply the items that the family cannot. So, check with them about their rules and regulations.
There are many ways to find help for school supplies without breaking the bank. Just keep your eyes open for resources, and don’t be afraid to ask when you need something. The school counselor is also a good resource for information about what is already happening in your community.
It’s always better to go into any new situation full of information and knowledge – the knowledge that you will need to finance a good portion of your child’s public education yourself if you want them to be involved, have the supplies they need and get the education you want them to have. You can do that by researching the situation where you live and be prepared for the costs in advance through creativity, smart planning, and budgeting.