Back to School Shopping on the Cheap

Kristina Kraus
Greater Nevada Credit Union
Before the school year begins, teachers send out a list of supplies that your children will need in their classes. Initially you may think, how much can a few pens, pencils and notebooks cost? But according to the Huntington Bank Backpack index, the reality is that between school supplies and extracurricular activities, parents will spend an average of $649 for an elementary school child, $941 for a middle school student, and $1,402 for a high school student.  And imagine what that amounts to if you have more than one school age child. Here are some tips for reducing your back to school costs:

Inventory and Budget

Before you start shopping, start by inventorying what you already have. Ask your kids go through their backpacks and desks and pull out any supplies. Look through your own desks and drawers at home to see if there’s anything you could contribute. Once you gather what you already have, look at your monthly spending and see what you can cut back on to compensate for the added expense of school supplies. By eliminating an unnecessary expense for the month, you won’t have to dip into your savings for supplies.

No Need for Brand Names

All pens and pencils function the same way, just like all notebooks are the same, so don’t spend extra on name brand items. For great prices on generic brands, try going to a dollar store or pick up a few things between the drug store and supermarket, which might be cheaper than a store that specializes in office supplies. By expanding your shopping resources, you can find the best prices amongst a variety of stores.

Start with the Necessities

Sometimes teachers use a standardized supply list or they’ve been using the same list for years and you might not really need everything that is on there. Start by buying only the necessities, just to get your child through the first week. Teachers will often go over a syllabus on the first or second day and re-iterate any must-have items for the year.

Learning how to budget, as well as understanding what is truly a necessity, is key to affording things like school supplies that aren’t a part of your regular expenses. Plus, it’s always a good idea to teach your kids about budgeting and shopping smart early on, so get them involved in the school supply buying process. You can also show them Greater Nevada’s free financial education resources, with games, tips and more for students of all ages.