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Budgeting your Back to School Shopping

August 23, 2017

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Whether you’re sad to see the long sunny days disappear or celebrating the fact that your kids will be back in the classroom soon, summer is quickly drawing to an end. Before the season ends however, comes the dreaded back-to-school shopping. Between clothing, shoes and school supplies, this can be an incredibly daunting and expensive task for even the most resourceful parent. To make your life a little easier during this hectic time, our money-saving Smythe experts have put together a few useful tips.

First on the agenda is splitting your shopping into two separate sections: school supplies and clothing and shoes. It’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to be able to get all your children’s school supplies, as well as their new shoes and clothing in one day, especially if you’re shopping for more than one child. Allow yourself two separate days to cross these items off your shopping list, if not for your bank account then for your sanity.

Day 1: School Supplies

According to a study done by Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada, the average Canadian parent is spending over $100 per child on school supplies to send their kids back to school with. Back-to-school shopping lists provided by the schools are getting longer and more specific every year, and we can only expect increases to these figures in the future.

Most schools send out a school supply list in June, shortly after the school year ends. These lists include everything your child needs for the following school year in terms of supplies. As confusing as it may be that you’re required to provide three boxes of Kleenex and four packages of photocopy paper, these are supplies your child will be using throughout the year so it’s best to provide all the requested items in September and just be done with it.

To find the best deals on school supplies, look to your trusty Flipp app. This free app is available on Apple and Android devices and shows you all the nearest locations you’ll find deals and sales. All you have to do is type in what you’re looking for and Flipp does the rest. Search everything from duo-tangs to pencil sharpeners, from headphones to dry erase markers – this app has it all. You can also create a shopping list, find coupons and browse specific store flyers on Flipp, making it many parents’ number one choice for shopping.

Note: Flipp is also useful for other household items, including groceries, pet care and home décor.

If the thought of entering a mall during back-to-school madness makes you want to pull your hair out, use the Internet to your advantage and shop online! Take a look on Amazon and it’s more than likely you’ll find some great deals! Here’s what we found in only a few minutes:

  • 4-pack of Hilroy exercise books for 60 cents
  • 10-pack of pencils for $1.87
  • Five-Star 9-piece compass set for $4.25

If you give yourself enough time to shop in advance, you can order everything you need online then sit back, relax and wait for the school supplies to start being delivered to your doorstep. Not only do you avoid leaving the house, you keep the cost of buying school supplies under budget – it’s a no-brainer!

Day 2: Clothing and Shoes

If your children are anything like ours, they love shopping for back-to-school clothing and shoes. New clothes, new shoes, what’s not to love? Unfortunately for parents, it’s never been easier to overspend on the basic needs for your children’s wardrobe with flashy brand names, social pressures and inflation. While clothing and shoes are something that can’t be avoided, it’s important to use this as a learning opportunity to teach your children the concept of a want vs a need. This way, they develop an appreciation for how much it costs to get them into their stylish new duds.

Another key factor of back-to-school shopping is planning ahead. It’s imperative that you plan ahead and make a list of what is needed for the school year. An article on mymoneycoach.ca suggests that those who shop without a list end up paying up to 23% more than those who embark on this journey with their list in hand.

Have a look through your children’s drawers and determine what they’ve got in there that still fits and is still in decent shape. There’s no sense in buying a whole new wardrobe when they’ve got several pieces from last year that will still work just fine. Oftentimes this does not apply because of how fast our children grow, so if you must start from scratch, consider shopping second hand or at discount retailers rather than high-end stores. Besides, there are a lot of brand-name items to be found in thrift stores if you’re looking in the right place. Sometimes you can score clothing items for as little as 10 cents if you’re looking hard enough. Keep your eyes peeled for clearance sales on your trusty Flipp app and in your daily flyers so that if you must buy brand new, you’re at least getting these items at a discounted price.

For older children who have part-time jobs, paper routes or allowances, let them know that if they wish to shop at the more expenses spots, you’ll pay x amount of dollars toward their back to school clothing, and anything over and above that number can be paid for by them.

Remember, when you embark on your back-to-school shopping journey, always follow the 3 P’s:

  1. Prepare your budget to stay on track
  2. Plan before you go and determine exactly what is needed
  3. Pray that you make it out alive

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