As August approaches, the stores become filled with shiny new back-to-school items that are just calling our names! As a kid, the new school year meant a new first day of school outfit and fun new accessories for my desk. (If I’m being honest, the latter still makes me excited. Anyone else?) As a mom of two, however, that excitement is also mixed with a bit of anxiety thinking about the expenses that back-to-school shopping and a new school year incur.
Have no fear though. We’ve got you covered with our best tips for saving money now and throughout the school year. A big thank you to our CMB contributors for these valuable tips!
Tips for saving money
- Take inventory. Before you even sit down and start creating a shopping list, take inventory of what you already have. Look through the supplies already in your house and check what can be re-used. You never know what pencils, notebooks, and binders are laying around just waiting to be used until you look for them. And while you are doing an inventory, don’t forget about your children’s clothes! Go through their closets and drawers and pull out things they no longer wear or don’t fit. And that brings us to our next money-saving tip…
- Consign/donate clothes that don’t fit! Online services like Poshmark make it easy to sell old clothes, and there are a ton of great consignment stores in the Charleston area that will gladly take the clothes that your children have outgrown. Then, take the cash from the consigned clothes and put it towards the things you’ll need for the upcoming school year. If you’d rather donate the old clothes, there are plenty of local organizations to do that!
- Plan ahead! If there’s one tip that stays with you from this post, it’s to plan ahead before you head to the stores. If your child is involved with sports, dance, or really any extracurricular activities, there are bound to be bigger expenses throughout the year. Recitals, sports equipment, and weekend trips can be costly, so try putting aside even a small amount of money each month that is just for those activities. That way, when it comes time to pay for the recital costume or new hockey equipment, your bank account won’t take such a big hit!
- Don’t forget to check out your local Mom Swap Facebook groups and Mommy Exchange pages. You might just find another mom selling something you need that’s still in great condition but for a fraction of the cost you would pay new!
- Take advantage of Tax-Free weekend in South Carolina August 2-4. Head here to read more about what’s included and some shopping tips!
- Do some comparison shopping before you hit the stores! If you want to find the best deals, put in a little homework by comparing prices online for your local brick & mortar stores as well as places like Amazon and other online favorites. Getting the best deals and lowest prices can sometimes mean hitting up several stores or buying from a variety of places, but your wallet will thank you in the end!
- Buy in bulk. If there are items you know are going to be on repeat on your shopping list, it might make more sense to buy them in bulk during back-to-school shopping. While it may mean more money upfront, prices for school supplies are generally the lowest this time of year. You can even go in on this with a friend and split the cost!
- Take advantage of money-saving apps like Ibotta, Ebates, and RetailMeNot. These apps help you find the best deals and some even give you cashback for purchases. A few dollars here and there can really add up!
- Take advantage of Wal-Mart or Target Pick-Up services. If you are short on time or don’t trust yourself to browse the aisles without getting distracted by those shiny new notebooks (ahem me!) then those services might just be your answer!
- Make a master back-to-school shopping list. One organized list will help keep you focused on the things you are going to buy. Cross things off as you buy them so you don’t accidentally buy more than you need.
- Set a budget. Just because something is on sale or it’s tax-free doesn’t mean you have to get all.the.things. If you are planning ahead and doing your comparison shopping, it should be a lot easier to avoid unexpected costs or surprises.
- The YMCA gives out free school supplies to anyone that shows up the day they are doing it! School supplies are given out until they run out. Make sure to check your local YMCA page to see if/when they are holding this event.
For many of us, groceries are one of our biggest expenses. Add in school lunch five days a week, and that grocery bill is just climbing! With a little planning, you can cut some of those costs.
School lunches and meal planning
- I love using the app MealBoard for my weekly meal planning. It allows me to import recipes and create a shopping list all on my phone. A weekly meal plan means I can make just one trip to the store, which saves not only my time but my sanity.
- Use leftover dinner for the next day’s school lunch. Easy-peasy and nothing goes to waste!
- Skip the prepackaged foods and go for raw ingredients. Obviously, prepackaged food can be convenient, and who doesn’t love that, but trading out even just a few things will save you some money. For example, that bag of baby carrots may be perfect because it’s less work on your end, but you’re going to pay more for them. Grab a bag of raw carrots and do the peeling, slicing, and washing yourself. Same goes for things like string cheese. Those things can really add up! Buy a hunk of cheese and slice your own and see the savings start to add up!
- Buy frozen fruit. We love fruit in my house, especially berries. But buying organic fruit week after week can really add up, plus it goes fast! Buying a large bag of frozen organic blueberries or strawberries is much more cost-effective and tastes just as delicious. Defrost them in the morning, drain the liquid, and they’ll be good to go at your child’s lunchtime!
Setting budgets and doing comparison shopping may not be the most fun part of the back-to-school season, but it will relieve some of the stress of the expenses associated with the season. And less stress for mom equals more time to enjoy this exciting time with your child!
Check out our segment on Channel 2 news about back-to-school budgeting!
What are your favorite money-saving tips? Let us know in the comments!