Summer vacation may have just started, but it’s not to early to be planning ahead for back to school.
With a little bit of planning, you’ll save time, beat the rush, and save money, too. I try to dedicate a little bit of time to planning now so that we can fully enjoy those last few fleeting weeks of summer break as a family.
Assess your inventory.
Check out your stash of school supplies. Even if you don’t stockpile school supplies from year-to-year, you probably still have a stash of pens, pencils, crayons, and so forth scattered around the house. Shop from your stash first. While shiny new school supplies are lovely, kids don’t need a brand new pair of scissors every school year. They probably don’t need a new pencil box either. Make a list of what you have so that you can figure out what your kids will need for the school year.
Go through your kids’ clothing. Now is the time to go through drawers and closets to see what’s worn out, what doesn’t fit, and what’s no longer fit to to be worn in public. Sort out what will be passed on to younger siblings, what you can donate, and what you may be able to sell on consignment or at a garage sale. Make sure you pay attention to their socks, underwear, jackets and shoes. These are things you don’t want to find out don’t fit on the first day of school.
Make shopping lists.
Once you’ve done you’re inventory, you should find your children’s school supply lists. Many schools put their school supply lists right on their websites, but you can also find them at major discount stores in late July and early August. Take a look at what you already have at home in your school supply inventory and make a list of the things you still need.
I like to make one master list for all of the kids’ shopping. This allows me to buy in bulk. For example, instead of buying a certain number of glue sticks for each kid, I can buy one big package of them and pay less per glue stick.
Make a list of any clothing or shoes your children will need for the new school year. Be specific! Write down the sizes they wear and even favorite colors in case you find a great deal when they aren’t with you. Be sure to include any special outfit needs (like black dress pants for a music program or a white blouse for a band concert).
You can save your shopping list on your smartphone (I am in love with Evernote for my iPhone), or you can carry a little notepad in your purse. Just make sure that you have that information with you whenever you are shopping. You’ll want to have that list with you whether you’re shopping at a discount store or a garage sale.
Set a budget.
Having a detailed shopping list will help you estimate what you’ll need to save up for back to school shopping. You’ll need to set aside a little bit of money each week leading up to the prime back-to-school shopping season (late July through August) in order to be ready for the expense.
Try to budget a little extra money to go shopping a week or two after school starts. Retailers are anxious to move the school supplies out for the fall holidays, so you’ll find deep discounts on notebooks, binders, and more.
It can be hard to find the money for school supplies, but if you’re able to set aside money you make from hosting a yard sale, couponing, or even taking online surveys, you’ll see that every little bit of money can add up.
Stock up on kids’ snacks and drinks during the summer months. I’ve noticed that there are usually more coupons for these items during the summer because the kids are home. So use those coupons to stock-up on snacks and drinks for school lunches and class snack time.
Watch the sales. The end-of-the-summer season clearance starts just before the back-to-school sales. Watch for those closeouts and stock up on wardrobe staples like shirts, shorts, and skirts. Keep your eyes open for children’s clothing deals at garage sales, thrift stores and consignment shops. Sometimes you can even find brand new items at secondhand stores for a fraction of the price.
Shop around. You don’t have to buy your school supplies at Walmart or Target (although they often do have great deals). Some office supply stores like OfficeMax or Staples have great deals, too. Drugstores like Walgreens and CVS can have great deals on school supplies, as does your local dollar store. You can even find deals on school supplies online at places like Amazon.
Use coupons. I mentioned using coupons for snacks, but you can also find them for clothing and school supplies. Check out our searchable database of online coupon codes to save on your online shopping. And look for printable coupons regularly. Target often puts out store coupons in mid-to-late July that can be paired with manufacturer coupons for big savings. Don’t forget about mail-in rebate offers or apps like iBotta to help you save, too!
Enjoy your summer.
It’s tempting to wait until the last minute to think about back-to-school shopping, but don’t. You’ll start the school year rested and prepared, and (more importantly) with money in your wallet with just a little bit of planning now.
Your turn: Have you started school shopping yet?