Back-to-School Budgeting 101: How to Stretch Your Dollars

July 20, 2023 by Chevron Federal Credit Union

It's that time again: the school year is approaching quickly, and before you know it, your kids will be headed back to class.

Raising kids can be quite an investment. According to the Brookings Institution, the average middle-income family with two children will spend $310,605 to raise a child born in 2015 up to age 17.

But saving money on back-to-school shopping can help relieve some of the financial impact. Here’s how to pull it off:

Savings tips for kindergarten through 8th grade

From classroom supplies to markers and textbook covers, parents start spending as soon as kindergarten rolls around. 

Make a budget

Creating a budget for back-to-school shopping is essential. Start by listing the necessities like school supplies, clothing and shoes. Determine a realistic spending limit based on your family's financial situation. By having a budget, you can prioritize your spending and avoid unnecessary expenses.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Before rushing to the store, take stock of what you already have at home. School supplies like pencils, pens, rulers and even backpacks can often be reused from the previous year. Involve your child in the process of sorting through their belongings and identifying items that are still in good condition. This not only saves money but also teaches kids about sustainability and reducing waste. 

Start saving for future years

Once your child enters school, back-to-school shopping becomes an annual expense. Setting aside a small amount of money each month in a dedicated savings account allows you to earn interest and stretch your budget further. Starting early helps you build up a nest egg specifically for future back-to-school needs.

The high school years

Once your child reaches high school, it often means a steep increase in back-to-school budgets, but you can keep costs down by planning ahead.

Utilize student discounts

High school students can take advantage of student discounts offered by retailers and technology providers. Many companies feature special pricing on laptops, tablets and software for students. Encourage your teenager to inquire about these discounts before making any major purchases.

Spread out your purchases

Instead of feeling pressured to buy everything for back-to-school in August, consider buying items throughout the year. This strategy allows you to maximize seasonal sales and find the best deals. Monitor prices and create a shopping plan, prioritizing items that are truly needed at the beginning of the school year.

Take advantage of tax holidays

Tax holidays are specific periods during which certain items are exempt from sales tax. These holidays often include school supplies, clothing and even computers. Research the dates of tax holidays in your state and plan your shopping accordingly. This can significantly reduce the cost of back-to-school purchases, especially for high school students with more expensive needs like technology and new clothing.

Advice for college students 

College costs an average of $36,436 per year, with students spending an average of $1,216 on textbooks and supplies alone.

Start saving early

For parents with college-bound children, it's crucial to start saving as early as possible. Consider opening a separate college savings account and take advantage of compounding interest. Or open a joint account and invite your teenager to start saving money alongside you.

Buy secondhand

College students entering the dorms often require items they'll only need for a few semesters, like textbooks, mini-fridges or small appliances. Consider purchasing these items secondhand to save money. Check online marketplaces, local thrift stores or connect with other college students to find gently used items at a fraction of the original cost.

Start on the road to good credit

Establishing credit early can help college students build a solid financial foundation. When used responsibly, credit cards like the Visa College Real Rewards Card can help them learn to manage spending while earning rewards. Parents can also play a significant role in teaching good financial habits by encouraging responsible credit card use.

With careful planning and a little creativity, you can make back-to-school shopping a financially manageable and stress-free experience. And it’s the perfect way to start your kids off on the right footing for a fresh new school year, setting them up for success.



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