Don't let back-to-school lists get you down

Family finances |

A bit of pre-shopping planning can go a long way in avoiding overspending

It’s time to start thinking about the chaos of back-to-school shopping. Whether you shop for school supplies in person or opt to do it online, it’s projected that families in the United States will spend an average of $696.70 on school supplies for children in grades K-12.

According to research by the National Retail Federation, this average went up from last year. In order, families spend the most money on clothing and accessories ($239.82), electronics ($203.44), shoes ($135.96) and supplies such as notebooks, pencils, etc. ($117.49).

With a little planning ahead, you can stay on top of your spending and keep your budget intact.

  1. Shop for lowest prices. Retailers often have sales and competitive prices during back-to-school season. Do some research ahead of time to see where you can get the best prices for the items on your back-to-school list.
  2. Use coupons. Look in the mail, online and in stores for coupons on what you know you’ll need.
  3. Take advantage of sales tax holidays. States such as Ohio, Virginia, Florida and others have yearly or biannual sales tax holidays that let you save on sales tax for specific types of items.
  4. Set a budget. You could decide on one big total number, or you could break down each category to help you get there. Here are some categories to think about:
    • Clothing
    • Shoes
    • Electronics
    • Classroom supplies
    • Books
    • Extra-curricular activities (such as sports, arts, and science programs)
  5. Save throughout the year. Once you have your budget for this year, calculate additional expenses and plan for inflation to estimate a number for next year. Divide that budget by twelve and you’ll know how much you need to save each month.

    Set up a club account, or subaccount, as your back-to-school spending account. Keep it separate to prevent you from using it for other expenses. Automate your saving and arrange for your monthly back-to-school savings to go directly into your back-to-school account.

    Then, when August rolls around next year, you will know exactly how much money you will spend for supplies.
  6. Prioritize spending if you think you’ll cut it close. If you didn’t budget for back-to-school spending this year, and have a tight budget, first decide how much you can afford – before you go shopping. Then, make a priority list of what you need to start the school year, and what can wait for later. Start shopping with your priorities in mind and once you hit your limit, stop. As you save up more in the next few months, pick up the additional supplies you’ll need.

Best wishes as you start the school year!

Sara Alvarez


Sara Alvarez Waugh
Content Marketing Director

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