Back to school shopping is not all clothes. There are other things to take into consideration: school supplies, lunches, fees (enrollment, sports participation, field trips), and books. All of these things tend to add up and that means a hit on your pocket book. If you want to save some money, however, it is possible to stretch your buck when it comes to back to school spending. The key is to think like a businessperson, and make your choices based on what funds you have available.
Create a list of needs. These are must-haves. Many districts offer lists of applicable fees and likely costs of activities, lunches, and field trips. You need to figure out what is needed in your child’s school life (are new shoes for soccer absolutely necessary, or are last year’s still in good enough shape?), and make a list. Include number needed (as sometimes you will need more than one of something) as well. Then, stick to that list. If you discover you have forgot something down the line, think long and hard about why it didn’t make the list in the first place in order to help you determine whether you really need.
Inventory what you have. Figure out what on your needs list you already own. Before you check an item off your needs list, however, you should check it over. Is it still usable? If so, is it acceptable? Something may be usable, but the wrong size. Items in this category can be set aside for future use by younger family members or neighbors. Go through and make sure school supplies are in good shape. Things like binders are excellent for reuse each year, and can save money in the long run.
Prioritize your list. After you have decided what you need to buy (taking into account items crossed off the list because you already have them), it is time to prioritize that list. You want to make sure that the immediate expenses, as well as those that cannot be avoided or put off, are first on the list. Extra clothing or accessories should go further down, prompting you to perhaps buy such superfluous items later on down the road.
Plan a purchase schedule. Don’t feel as though you need to buy everything all at once. You can wait to purchase some things, like a winter coat, until later in the season. Plan out what you have now, and what you will have later, and make purchases around that. Shop sales and discount stores when items are on sale. For instance, buy clothing at the end of the season, or make school supply purchases at the beginning of the summer. Spreading it out means you take less of a hit at once.
Compromise. Unfortunately, children feel a need to fit in. Peer pressure to have specific clothes or a particular character on a lunchbox is intense to the young mind. Compromise by telling them they may choose only one or two such items. If you are feeling the pressure too much as well, tell them extra items are to be purchased using their own allowance money. Explain that you have to save up all year for back to school, and that they need to save their own money. Then they can decide whether one more pair of designer jeans is really worth the price.