Back-to-school spending can take its toll on the family budget, with parents paying considerable cash for clothes, backpacks and other must-haves. The National Retail Foundation expects consumers to spend about $74.9 billion this year to send their children and college students back to school, up 12 percent since 2013.
“Back-to-school spending is second only to the holidays, and the outlay is higher and higher each year,” said Mike Sullivan, director of education for Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency. “Retailers push hard in the summer months, and school budget cuts have shifted the cost of supplies to families, but savvy parents can save money without skimping on necessities.”
Sullivan offers eight tips for cutting costs on back-to-school shopping:
1. Take stock: Supply lists often call for scissors, rulers, pencils and other items people already have at home. Parents can save money by taking stock of what they have before buying new supplies.
2. Stick to the list: Teachers’ supply lists have become more extensive – and expensive – so parents are wise to stick to the list and avoid impulse purchases.
3. Comparison shop: Dollar stores, big-box retailers and office supply stores offer deep discounts on many school essentials. Parents can save money by seeking out the best prices and stocking up on items children use throughout the year.
4. Clip coupons: Many websites publish coupons on back-to-school clothing and supplies. Parents also can find their children’s favorite brands on Facebook and Twitter for special coupons available only to followers.
5. Wait to buy: Just like holiday shopping, retailers often discount prices after the rush. Parents can purchase some items after Labor Day to reap savings.
6. Shop or swap second-hand: Clothing swaps are a popular choice to exchange gently used clothing. Additionally, second-hand retail shops, Craigslist and eBay are good options for finding trendy and brand-name gear at a fraction of the cost.
7. Shop tax-free: Many states offer tax-free shopping days during back-to-school seasons. Find out if your state is participating, and buy your big-ticket items then.
8. Include kids in the process: Many parents give their kids a budget for clothing and necessities. Kids who have to choose between blowing the budget on pricey items or stretching their dollars with sensible purchases will learn a powerful lesson about the value of money.
For more financial tips, visit www.takechargeamerica.org.