Back to School on a Budget - Top 10 Tips For Parents

by Samantha on August 18, 2012

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Summer’s over and parents everywhere are stressing about “Back-to-School” shopping. With the pressures that retailers, marketers and children put on parents, is it any wonder that we’re feeling a bit anxious? Second only to the holidays, this time of year is one where moms and dads around the world feel a collective draining of their bank accounts as they give in to the whims and demands of their kids. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case every August. There are ways of making sure that your children are outfitted with all of the items that they need to make their school year successful, without having to break the bank.

Following are the Top 10 Tips for Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget

1) Hold off - Our natural reaction as parents is to get our kids everything they are perceived to need, as soon as possible. This is particularly the case curing the hectic “Back-to-School” season. While it may seem prudent to buy all of your child’s items up front, before the school year starts, did you know that you might actually save money and be ahead of the game by waiting for a bit? Retailers are well aware of the anxieties that parents feel about this time of year and it’s no surprise that clothing and school supplies are prominently placed in most stores and malls. Hold off on your urge to get everything for your child at once, selecting only a few items of clothes and supplies before the first day back. By waiting until a month or two after school has begun, you will not only save money on discounted clothing, but will have a better grip on what your child wants, needs and likes as well.

2) Something Old, Something New - Don’t underestimate the value of thrift stores. You’d be surprised at some of the items that you can find for your kids wardrobes at retailers that specialize in second-hand and vintage clothing. With some careful planning, a list of items you’re looking for and perhaps a bit of elbow grease, you can come away with some great finds at incredible prices.

3) A Dollar For Your Thoughts - One of the best developments of the past 20 years is the growth of “dollar stores.” Before you venture into the bigger retailers for back-to-school items, make a stop at your local dollar store for staples such as pens, paper, markers, highlighters, etc. These days, many of the dollar stores stock name-brand items at reduced prices, so do your research and save money before school starts.

4) Put a Limit on Spending - While it’s tempting to get caught up in the frenzy of the back-to-school season, keep a level head about the situation. Before any money is spent, sit down and go through what needs to be purchased and set a strict budget for back-to-school purchases. This way, it will be easier to work within your means and not be tempted by items that don’t fit into your financial plan.

5) Buy off Season - It may just be September but your kids will still need snow pants in January. Buy them now and save. Ditto for any other items that may be off season and on sale. In August, for example, there are many sales of summer inventory such as t-shirts, shorts, sandals, bathing suits and more. Stock up - your kids will need shorts and t-shirts for gym class as well as spring next year. Conversely, purchase winter clothes at the end of the season - early spring. You’ll save and be prepared for the next school year.

6) Bulk Up - Buying in bulk isn’t always the best way to go, depending on what you’re looking for, but it can provide you with huge savings if you do your research. Some of the big-box bulk stores sell many items in larger quantities that are perfect for the back-to-school shopper. Items that are sold in bulk are often cheaper than single unit priced items; just make sure to do your comparison shopping and check the unit price of the items before purchasing.

7) Don’t Discount Outlets - The malls, department stores and well-known office supplies stores consider back-to-school time only second to Christmas when it comes to spending. Don’t get sucked into feeling like you have to purchase your kids new items at these locations. Now’s a good time to consider the outlet malls that often feature the same name-brand stores but with inventory that is discounted by anywhere from 30 per cent upwards. These outlets are also great places to get off-season clothes and other items that your children may need in the months to come.

8) Click Here - Or there. Technology is your friend and there is a wealth of information and items up for grabs online. Do your research and check online options for school supplies and related items. Online shopping staples such as Ebay, and Craigslist, are some go-to online sites that can help you save money on clothing, electronic devices, supplies and more.

9) Coupons -Many back to school flyers have coupons. Scour and research the stores where you want to shop and clip to save. Don’t forget online coupons as well. You can also sign up for e-newsletters for many of your favourite stores and have the savings and discounts delivered right to your inbox.

10) Cooperate With Friends - A clothing co-op is a great way of saving money and doing your part for the environment. Before school starts, organize a clothes swap party or gathering with parents and kids of similar ages where you all bring together items that may be of use to each other. You’ll be surprised at what you’re able to exchange, and how much you can save by sharing with like-minded parents.

Here are some more Back-to-School shopping tips that I provided for an article in the Toronto Star:

Back to School Shopping on a Budget

I also provided some tips on getting inexpensive back-to-school supplies by shopping at Dollarama. Check out this video for some of the tips and items that can be purchased there:


What other back-to-school shopping tips do you have?


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ElectraDaddy August 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Excellent advice, as always!


Samantha August 18, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Thanks, ElectraDaddy!


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