There never seems to be enough money for parents of small children or college students looking to buy clothes and supplies for the upcoming school year. However, there are ways that those who need to get their kids or themselves ready for the upcoming school year to buy all needed items without breaking the budget. What are some ways to create a back to school budget and stick to that budget?

Part I- Create a Plan

Get a List of Supplies

The first step is to create a list of everything that is needed to prepare yourself or your children for the upcoming school year. Kids who are in elementary school or junior high may receive a supply list that spells out everything that they will need for the upcoming year. High school and college students may receive a general list of what they will need from their teachers on the first day of school or during the first week of the school year.

When parents know what their children will need or what they will need to buy for themselves for the upcoming school year, it may be worthwhile to identify what they can get from others or buy used. For example, it may be possible to borrow a calculator from an older friend or relative or buy textbooks online as opposed to in the school bookstore.

This could result in savings of hundreds of dollars each semester or per school year. Typically, retailers will have clearance specials on supplies such as pens, paper and notebooks during the last week of summer vacation or during the first week of school to clear out inventory. This could be a great time to buy supplies without paying much for them.

Decide Where to Buy School Clothes

Buying supplies for the classroom is only one part of getting ready for the school year. The other part is determining where to buy clothes, shoes and other accessories to help yourself or your child look good and feel confident heading into the new school year.

Fortunately, many retailers will offer back to school discounts that can help a shopper save 40 percent on a pair of pants or 50 percent on a pair of shoes. State and local governments may also waive sales taxes during the week leading up to the new school year to further help parents and older students buy what they need.

Part II-How to Pay for the Supplies

Create a Budget Ahead of Time

No matter how much a person may need to buy, it is important that he or she create a budget and stick to it. Aside from waiting for sales or borrowing goods from others, it may be possible to save money by shopping at thrift stores or going to outlet stores where designer goods may be heavily discounted. It may also be worthwhile to look for retailers that sell gently used brand name clothing at discount prices while also providing store credit in exchange for clothing that an individual may no longer want.

Cash or Credit?

The first thing that an individual needs to decide is whether he or she will pay for school supplies with cash or with credit. While spending with cash makes it easier to stick to a budget, buying goods on a credit card provides financial flexibility for those who may have multiple kids to buy supplies for or doesn’t have enough money in the bank to buy a new pair of glasses or $500 worth of textbooks.

Take Advantage of an Incredible Teaching Moment for Kids

One way to engage children and teach them how to be fiscally responsible is to let them have some say over what they buy for the upcoming school year. Parents can give their children $100 for clothes that can be spent on anything that they want. However, that is all the money that they have. Once the money is gone, the kids are stuck with what they have in their closet or what is bought for them.

Ultimately, this will help teach kids how to make their own style decisions as well as learn how to stick within a budget. When children are exposed to the financial realities that their parents face, they may be less likely to protest when they don’t get the designer clothes that they want and appreciate what they have already. An arrangement such as this one may also be beneficial if kids are at an age when they don’t want to go clothes shopping with their parents anymore.

Part III-Learn From Your Experiences

Keep Detailed Lists Each Year

It is a good idea to keep a list of all the purchases that have been made in years past. This can help shoppers remember when and where they did their shopping so they know where to go to get a great deal this year and where not to go if they spent too much. As time goes by, it becomes easier to instinctively know where and when to shop based on what a family’s needs are.

Try to Keep Spending Consistent Each Year

Another way to teach kids about budgeting and keeping costs to a reasonable amount may be to show them how much was spent last year on school supplies. A game can then be created where the challenge is to keep spending within 3 percent or some other predetermined increase from the year before. Children can learn while having fun at the same time, and parents can encourage frugality by offering to spend any remaining funds on a future trip to the mall where their son or daughter can buy whatever he or she wants.

Back to school shopping does not need to be a time of high drama or stress. With experience and a little bit of research ahead of time, it will get easier to create a shopping list, create a budget and get everything needed while staying within that budget. Over time, parents and older students will be able to complete their shopping quickly and on their own schedule.

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