I’ve been around the back-to-school shopping block a few times and I’ve found ways to help stretch supplies, clothing and the family budget from year-to-year.
I still enjoy the tradition of going shopping before school starts, and we still buy new things to start the school year fresh, but I’ve learned several practical ways to help greatly reduce the expense of what is truly needed when school starts.
Here are my techniques for saving money each year:
1. Buy Used
Recognize that every single thing doesn’t have to be brand new on the first day of school, and kids can still wear a good number of their summer clothes for the first few months of school.
I love to shop for clothes at Goodwill or Buy/Sell/Trade sites on Facebook, and I gladly accept hand-me-downs in good condition. If hand-me-downs need to be stored until they’re the appropriate size, I keep them in storage bags at the top of the closet marked with season and size. It’s a great surprise to look up later and find a lot of my shopping already done for me at close reach.
Plus, during my son’s first week of kindergarten several years ago, he took his brand new little pair of Fiskar scissor and cut holes in 4 of his nice polo shirts. They were nice shirts, but the fact that I only paid $2 for each of them took a lot of sting out of the situation, if you know what I mean.
I’ve never had a problem sending my boys to school looking presentable in new-to-us clothing. It’s easy to find good quality clothing out there and you can’t beat the price.
2. Buy a Size Up
I may only need to buy two or three new pairs of jeans or jean shorts throughout the year (they dress comfortably in nice shorts and athletic pants mostly). When I do shop for jeans, I look for brands with these great tabs inside the waistline.
I buy a size up and cinch the waists to the appropriate fit, and let them out as they grow. I shop primarily for clothes at Walmart and Target, so I know you can find these there.
I also buy t-shirts a size up for reasons to be explained in the next point.
3. Stretch Their Wardrobe
We live in Tennessee, and the kids here can still wear appropriate summer clothing throughout August and September, so if you don’t want to buy used, you can hold off on buying fall and winter clothing for a few months in most cases if you need to.
I also stretch their ability to wear t-shirts throughout the winter months, because kids love their character t-shirts and want to wear them year-round. I buy the t-shirts a size up (I’ve found a ton of character shirts at used stores, fyi.)
I look for simple, long sleeved cotton shirts in plain colors to mix-and-match underneath character t-shirts. I buy basic colors and that works well. My son’s favorite color is green.
This also works if you have old long-sleeved shirts where the lettering or design on the front is really worn, stained or faded. Just throw a t-shirt on top of it. Done.
4. Reuse and Reinforce backpacks
My guys got cool Star Wars backpacks for Christmas that are still in great condition, so we are going to use them for the new school year.
They are the full size 16 inch packs and still very sturdy. They still like them a lot and Star Wars never goes out of style. To switch it up, they are going to trade packs so they can use something different, but we get to skip buying new ones for now.
(These particular designs aren’t still currently available, but there are similar styles here and here on Amazon for just under $20 each.)
It’s also a great idea to reinforce the inside bottoms of backpacks. I use my husband’s black gaff tape that he keeps on hand to tape down cables for video production.
It holds really well like duct tape, but gaff tape has more give to be flexible with the soft bottom lining of a backpack. And it’s really strong to protect against spiral notebooks and the edges of hardcover books, or anything else that stabs at the bottom lining.
This is a great way to stretch the use of an old backpack, or help a new one last longer.
5. Reuse Supplies in Good Condition
I used to throw unused school supplies from previous years into our art box at home, but it’s getting really full and to be honest, we already have 4 pairs of Fiskar scissors. The pair we had last year is still in great condition and the appropriate size, so we’re reusing them.
I also found numerous brand new eraser tops, glue sticks and highlighters that we can use this year. A pencil box wasn’t on his list this time, but we have 4 to choose from if that changes. Most of the supplies we need are new, but I like to reuse what I can at this point.
If you need sporting equipment or certain electronics for older kids, there’s a good possibility you can buy those gently used items from someone that no longer needs them, it’s worth checking out.
We always need to buy new shoes because they wear those down pretty quickly, and we get new undergarments. But our costs for two kids were pretty minimal this year and that makes me really happy. I love to eliminate certain costs altogether, or spread them out so it’s a softer blow to the budget over time.
Have you learned any new tricks over time to save money on back-to-school shopping? What would you add?
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