How to Balance Back to School Costs

Family Finances Aug 28 How to Balance Back to School Costs

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but summer is coming to an end. You know what that means—back to school shopping! Whether you are shopping for yourself or for your growing little ones, all those expenses can make a big dent in your wallet. From new clothes to school supplies, you can go over-budget very quickly if you aren’t mindful while shopping. But don’t panic yet. Here are some helpful tips on how to balance back-to-school costs.

Take Inventory First


The first step in shopping for anything is to make a list of what you think you need. If your child’s school issues a supplies list, be sure to cross-reference it with your own. Once you have developed a preliminary list, shop in your own house before you head to the store. Yes, you heard me right! Take your list around your house and look through what you already have and might be able to reuse. This tends to be one of the most overlooked tips when school shopping because it is time-consuming and it is easy to forget what you have left over from previous years, but taking the time to do so can save you a lot. Once you have taken an accurate inventory, adjust your shopping list accordingly. Hopefully, you’re able to cross off a few items!

Set a Clear Budget

Now that you have saved some money by going through what you already have, it’s time to create a budget. Whether you like to do it the old-fashioned way with pen and paper or use an app like Mint, have a clear budget and stick to it. If you’re armed with a shopping list and a budget, you’re much less likely to succumb to impulse buys.

Compare Before You Shop

While you might be itching to head to the store, there’s still one more thing to do before you leave—comparison shop! This can be done online from the comfort of your own home, whether you prefer to look in the Sunday newspaper or check the internet. It’s important to research where you can get the best bang for your buck on your back to school necessities. Knowledge of prices is power when it comes to shopping.

Take Advantage of Discounts and Rewards

This is where you pat yourself on the back for doing all of the preparation work necessary for balancing the cost of back to school shopping. It is time intensive but time is money, and you are saving it! With this feeling of accomplishment, you can finally start shopping. Remember to be mindful of discount apps (like Cartwheel at Target) that offer coupons for in-store purchases, as well as credit cards that offer rewards like cash back. Whether you prefer points for travel or retailer-specific credit cards, don’t be afraid to take advantage of a good deal.

Try Alternative Shopping Methods

Shopping secondhand and at bulk stores are tried-and-true methods for saving money—because they work! Secondhand shopping is not only good for your wallet but fabulous for our environment. If you or your little ones need new clothes, try a consignment shop or online thrift store for new threads instead of heading to the mall. Additionally, buying school supplies in bulk can dramatically reduce the cost-per-item price. Whether you are buying for one kid or multiple children, keep in mind that they will likely need more supplies as the school year progresses! If you’re worried you won’t need as many supplies, you can also half on bulk items with another family and save a pretty penny in the process.

These tools will help you finish the overwhelming task of back to school shopping with a sense of accomplishment. Saving money is possible, and if you get sidetracked, just remember to clearly define your list and stick to your budget.


As the wife of a Gatsby-obsessed high school English teacher, Rebecca Piersol knows that the back-to-school season can get hectic. Rebecca writes content for her own site, The Crystal Press, and thredUP, an online thrift store that makes it easy to shop high-quality secondhand children’s clothing at a budget-friendly price.

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