Five Ways to Save While Back-to-School Shopping

By Madeline Daniels, America Saves Digital Communications Manager

Families sending children back to school in the fall plan to spend a record $917 per child, according to a new Rubicon survey. So why the high price tag? It turns out over a third of families’ budgets are expected to go to technology.

In addition to spending more, parents are starting their back-to-school shopping earlier. In fact, more than a third have started. The good news is there’s more than enough time to get the shopping done and save some money in the process. Here are five ways to save money while back-to-school shopping:

1. Set up a neighborhood swap meet

Gather your neighbors with kids around the same age and size for a swap meet. Here’s how it works: everyone brings gently used clothing, books, and school supplies, and receives a ticket for each item they bring. Each ticket entitles you to one item from the swap meet. If you contribute six books, you can leave with up to six new-to-you books. If you contribute seven items of clothing, you can leave with up to seven new-to-you items of clothing.  All leftover items are donated.

2. Offer your kids a bargain bonus

Teach good savings habits and encourage your children to reuse old school supplies or find good deals at nearby retailers by offering a “bargain bonus,” or set percentage of the money you save. So if they’re able to reuse all their old colored pencils, offer half of what you would pay in the store to buy them new. When school starts, open up a savings account for those funds or add the bargain bonus to the kids’ existing savings account.

3. Wait it out

We know that it’s tempting to get back-to-school shopping checked off your list, but in this case, being the early bird could cost you.  According to the National Retail Federation, the best deals on schools supplies are usually available closer to school start dates.

And be sure to think through if each purchase needs to be made before the first day of school. Certainly take advantage of bargain basement pricing that’s offered on things like paper and pencils before the school year, but clothing and technology are often less expensive after the back-to-school rush. There will be good deals on clothes during Columbus Day in October, and if you can hold out long enough, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a good time to buy tablets and laptops. Also, check out your installation's exchange for deals and steals.

4. Make a budget and stick to it

The first step to saving more efficiently is to keep track of what you spend and budget. To get started, keep a careful record of all (and we mean all) of your spending for a month. One method is to save all your bills and receipts over the month and stack them into categories like “utilities” and “groceries.” Or download our free budgeting worksheet here. Be sure to create categories for back to school and holiday shopping sprees so that you’re saving up for those budget busters throughout the year.

5. Put your savings to work

Savvy shoppers can save big bucks by taking advantage of back-to-school sales and comparison shopping for the best prices. But don’t just spend less, put the money you save into a savings account to plan for college expenses, retirement, or an emergency fund that can leave you financially better off. And did you know those with a savings plan are twice as likely to save successfully? Why not let Military Saves help you reach your savings and debt reduction goals. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. That’s what our pledge is all about. Learn more about how to save money for the future here.

TAKE THE MILITARY SAVES PLEDGE

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