5 Money-Saving Tips for the Back-to-School Season

image of child holding back-to-shool chalkboard

Each year, as fall approaches, parents start to think about what their kids will need as they prepare to go back to school. Most teachers will provide a list of the necessities for their classroom, which can be quite long and pretty costly. Here are five ways you can save money during the back-to-school season.

Avoid the Back-To-School Blues!

1. Go on a "School Supplies Scavenger Hunt."When you get that dreaded school supply list from your child's school, you may feel overwhelmed at the amount you're expected to spend. Instead of running to your nearby office supply store for the newest pens, markers, and folders for the new school year, take a look around your home first. You may be surprised to find that you already own more than enough school supplies to cover some of that list. If you find yourself having to buy supplies, be sure to do your research. A pencil is a pencil. Why pay more for that pencil by going to an office supply store when you can pay half as much by shopping at a larger department store?

2. Off-Season Shopping. Back-to-school clothes shopping can do real damage to your bank account if you do it all at the last minute. Buying clothes out of season when they're on sale can help you avoid "needing" to make purchases when your budget is tight. Is your child only going to be able to fit into that winter coat for one more year? Summer is the perfect season for discounted winter clothes. Want to make sure there are a few new outfits for your child come September? Winter is the best time to stock up on cute fall clothes.

3. Activities on a Budget. Every child should be engaged in something outside of school that allows them to grow and learn new skills. Unfortunately, many of those activities cost a pretty penny and can deter parents from enrolling their children. Some choices that won't hurt your wallet include the Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as the sports and activity programs offered by your local Parks and Recreation Department. Although there may be initial costs for registration and uniforms, the overall cost is usually modest.

4. Sports Equipment Woes. So, your child has decided they want to try one of those dreaded expensive sports that costs an arm and a leg? Check with family, friends and neighbors before you go spending your money on new equipment. They may have exactly what you need sitting in their basement. In addition, a quick search online for "donated sports equipment" in your area will probably identify a number of great opportunities to save money while allowing your child to play. You can also check with your child's coach or contact your town's Parks and Recreation Department. They often have stores of used sports equipment that you can often use for free or purchase at a significant discount.

5. Bulk-Up for the Year. Weekly trips to the grocery store for common items such as water bottles, snacks, and lunch meats can get expensive. Parents will often take the easy way out by purchasing pre-packaged lunches. Although convenient, these can cost around $3 or more. Instead of buying pre-packaged lunches, consider buying the ingredients in bulk and making your own meals. Large wholesale warehouses are huge money savers when it comes to buying school lunch items in bulk. Although the initial investment may seem exorbitant, you could save much more in the long run. When used properly, a membership in a wholesale club can be pure gold to a family on a budget.