Strategies for Keeping Back to School Costs Low
As parents, there are few financial expenditures we look forward to with equal amounts of excitement and apprehension than the start of a new school year. Whether that means high tuition, or just getting the basics--books, binders, and clothes--the cost of making sure our kids are prepared for a year of academic rigor send shivers down our spine. In fact, the National Retailers Federation estimates that the average K-12 household will spend nearly $700 per child on back-to-school costs this year.
Because we take our job as finance specialists seriously, we believe that helping our customers save money--even if it's not on a car--is one of the best parts of our jobs. So, we'd like to share some of our tips for keeping back-to-school costs as low and affordable as possible for Wisconsin families (and anyone else reading!).
Whatever You Do, Don't Bust Your Budget
Much like our own auto finance program, we start our back-to-school shopping with a budget--and stick to it! There are some things in life we need, and some we do not. And if money is tight, then we owe it to ourselves and our kids to be as disciplined as possible in the short run, in order to set our families up for success in the long run. (Now, once the basics have been covered, we might splurge on some extra goodies!)
The Importance of a Good List (And Sticking to It)
Armed with our budgets, we review everything that's on our teacher's mandatory supplies list. PRO TIP: We live and die by these lists, so we snap a quick picture of them as soon as they arrive so we can have a copy on hand at all times (or if they get mysteriously misplaced in the weeks leading up to class...). If there's anything on the list that we already have, we simply recycle last year's item, and move on to the next (hint: this is how we justify splurging on our goodies!). Next, for must-have items we don't already have, we scour the internet and local ads for upcoming and current sales so we know when the best time to buy will be. Another approach is to buy supplies in bulk--it helps to partner with a relative who has kids, or with another family--and we do our best to stock up on standard supplies over the course of the school year anytime we see something on special.
How Not to Blow Your Budget On Back-to-School Clothes
Clothing represents a special challenge, and one we definitely don't look forward to! However, hand-me-downs are always in fashion (just ask your local hipster) and some of our best buys over the years have come from Goodwill (hint: keep your eyes peeled for winter weather clothes sooner rather than later). For special clothing purchases that just can't be avoided (like uniforms and gym clothes), we recommend seeing if the school sells them at discounted prices, or if there's a way to pay for them by volunteering at events throughout the year.
Final Thoughts As You Prepare for Another School Year
With these recommendations in hand, you're sure to make balaning the books this August a lot more realistic. And, to all you apprehenive parents out there, know that we've got your back and we're rooting for you and your kids!