By Sheryl Smolkin
Late August is one of the most expensive times of the year for families with young children. Kids seem to grow like weeds in the summer and often have to be outfitted from head to toe. And expensive computers, tablets, smart phones and sports equipment are now on many back-to-school lists list along with low tech supplies like pencils, pens, binders and post-it notes.
Here are some ideas I have gleaned from other bloggers to help save you money:
- Check with the school: Find out from your child’s school what exactly you are expected to provide. There is no sense buying all sorts of notebooks, binders and pens if the basics are already handed out to students. And teachers often have strong preferences about how they want students to complete and organize their work.
- Make a list: Before heading out on a shopping trip for school supplies, check what items from previous years are unused and which binders and back packs can be re-used because they are still in good condition. Then make a list and stick to it.
- Take inventory: Try on coats, boots and other clothing items to see if anything still fits. Where you have several children close in age, determine what can be handed down. Consider a clothing swap of gently used items with friends and neighbours.
- Spread it out: While you may feel pressured to buy everything at once before school starts, you won’t need snowsuits and boots until November. Spreading out necessary purchases over the next few months until you see great sales will take the pressure off your budget.
- Online deals: Major retailers with bricks and mortar stores often offer deals online. In addition to using coupon sites, like RetailMeNot, there are a number of price comparison sites, including shopbot.ca and ShopToIt.ca, that list how much an item costs at various retailers. When shopping online, choose retailers that offer deals such as free shipping, promo codes and discounts.
- Buy generic: Pre-teens and teens in particular may be into “name brands” that can cost hundreds of dollars more than generic equivalents of similar quality. Giving your children a limited clothing budget or telling them they have to earn the money to buy trendy items will help them to better understand the value of a dollar and keep your overall costs down.
- Shop alone: This may or may not work depending on the age of your child and what you are shopping for. However, the easiest way to avoid arguments about buying more expensive school supplies and clothes with the latest Disney characters may be to shop without your kids so they won’t distract you from your mission of finding and buying items that are the best value.
- Used sports equipment: Children grow out of skates and skis every year. Outfitting a minor hockey player can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. Some sports stores sell hockey equipment starter kits for better prices than if you buy each item individually. You may find gently used equipment on sites like Kijiji. Craigslist, Ebay or a local classified website. Some arenas have sports exchanges or you can talk to parents of older hockey players.
- Last year’s model: Contrary to what your kids may tell you, they don’t need the latest iPhone or iPad. The odds of mobile devices being lost or broken are very high. Earlier models may be offered by carriers for under $100 and you can often share minutes on a family plan. Also, kids typically text as opposed to sending emails so a costly data plan may be unnecessary.
- Extra-curricular activities: Extra-curricular activities like dancing, swimming, sports and music lessons are an important part of every child’s education but they can add up. Don’t fall in to the trap of signing your children up for more activities than the family schedule can mange for more money than you can afford. Go over the brochure for the local community centre with each child and pick one or two convenient activities that are offered at a price that fits within your budget.
Back-To-School Costs: How To Avoid Blowing Your Budget
How to Save Money on School Supplies
Back-To-School Shopping: Five Money Saving Tips
Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget | MintLife Blog
Back to School Tips – How to Balance Your Budget with Needs and Wants
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