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It’s that time of year again! It’s time to get the kids ready to go to school. Whether this is your child’s first year in school or you’ve been in this cycle for a while, parents must make sure that children are properly prepared for school. Did you set money aside for this occasion? Has the expense of back to school shopping caught you off guard? We are here to help!

There are two times a year when parents are often caught in a whirl wind of expenses for their children; Christmas and Back to School Shopping. The key is to not get frustrated. Sometimes, as parents we allow these events to totally blow our budget. Our students deserve to feel good when they go to school, but you do not have to break your bank or allow back to school shopping to destroy your financial goals.

Check out these 14 tips to help you manage your finances while still providing your child with an awesome back to school experience.


Put a plan in place before heading out to the stores. You will find yourself overspending and buying items that you don’t really need if you are not sure what direction you’re headed. Take the time to put a needs and tasks list in place.


The very first task is to set a budget and make a list of all the school supplies, clothing items and extra-curricular activity items that are needed. Most schools make the supply lists available so that parents can shop ahead of time. But, it is okay to wait until the first week of school when you receive the supply list. This can help you to not buy unnecessary items. It is also a good idea to establish when in the school year these items are needed. Do your children need a particular item right away such as a new backpack? Can a certain clothing item wait until later in the school year such as longer sleeve tops or fall jackets? Making a detailed list can be of great benefit when working in a confined budget. Once your list is complete, set a budget. Price out each item on your list.


The next step in your plan should be to investigate supplies and clothes that you already have available. Thoroughly go through your home and find supplies that can be used from the last school year. Gather those things, whether they are clothing items, re-usable backpacks, pens, pencils, notebooks, etc. and organize them. Check with family and friends as well. They may have some of the supplies that you need. Check what you have found off of your shopping list.


Use the time of back to school planning and shopping to educate your children about finances. Let the kids get involved. Allow them to tell you if there are certain items that they want. Let your son or daughter search out prices and assist you in planning from beginning to end.


Here is when it gets fun! Allow your student to contribute to the purchase of their school clothes and supplies. Bargain with them. For example, if they want an expensive pair of jeans or sneakers, tell them that you will pay a certain amount and they can pay the rest. Or, they can purchase some items in full. Children often receive birthday money and gift cards. They can even use their allowance. This is an awesome way to help your students begin to understand money.


There are many community organizations who have back to school rallies, drives and give-a-ways. Do an online search, check with your parish or other churches in the community. Some of these rallies include free haircuts and some even give away clothes and school uniforms. These generous events can be a life saver if you just don’t have the money for back to school shopping available in your budget.


The time is now! You should be keeping a close eye on all of the store ads for door buster sales and coupons. Many stores such as Walmart, Target, OfficeMax and others carry sales for school supplies such as reams of notebook paper for one cent. Take advantage of these sales but don’t buy an item unnecessarily just because it’s on sale. Check sale ads for coupons in store and online.


The time is now! You should be keeping a close eye on all of the store ads for door buster sales and coupons. Many stores such as Walmart, Target, OfficeMax and others carry sales for school supplies such as reams of notebook paper for one cent. Take advantage of these sales but don’t buy an item unnecessarily just because it’s on sale. Check sale ads for coupons in store and online.


Don’t take the chance of shopping from memory. Take your budget as well as your list with you when you shop. Sometimes we think that we will remember everything especially when you have spent so much time planning. But it is for that reason that you should make sure you have your lists with you so you don’t forget an item or buy something you have already checked off your list.


Once that budget is set, stick to it. One great way to make sure you don’t go over budget is to only use cash. Take the amount of cash that you need to shop with you and leave all other forms of payment at home. This will allow you to not fall into the temptation of purchasing items that your student does not need.


Dollar stores can be very useful when purchasing school supply items. You do have to be careful because dollars can add up very quickly. There are some things that are less expensive than a dollar in regular stores. Therefore, you have to keep in mind what you are purchasing from the dollar store and if you can get it at a better price and/or value somewhere else. For example, you may be able to purchase one note pad at the dollar store, but you may be able to get three note pads at another store for $1.50. In this case, it is better to buy the note pads at the other store.


After you have checked out the clothing items that you have on hand, your next move should be to the thrift stores.  Search out local thrift stores as well as rummage and garage sales.  There are also online thrift stores such as thredUp where you can even purchase some designer and name brand items at a fraction of the cost of purchasing at a retail store.


You don’t have to prepare for the entire school year right now. As stated earlier, take into account what items are needed at what time in the school year. Just because it is on your daughters supply list now, the item may not be used until later in the school year. If possible, check with teachers, coaches, etc. to get an understanding of what is needed when. This can help you with your budget.


There are some stores that utilize a lay-a-way program. This will allow you to shop for what you need, pay a percentage plus a small fee for your items and make payments until they are paid in full. The store will in turn hold your items for you. Once your lay-a-way is paid for, you can take your items home. Stores such as Burlington Coat Factory and others have a lay-a-way program. This is a great option when you don’t have enough cash on hand to make all your child’s school clothes or supply purchases.


Now that you are on your way to a good start for this year…plan now for next year’s back to school shopping. The earlier you plan, the sooner you can get started. If you plan now for next year, you can begin to shop as you see deals that can save you money. As parents, we sometimes are so happy to be done with a task that we fail to plan ahead for the next time. Well, like it or not, the next school year is coming just like this one is upon us. So, why not plan ahead and take advantage of the above tips sooner rather than later? It will save you time, energy and money.

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This is an exciting time of year.  Your child is going to their next level and you’re a proud parent, so make back to school shopping fun!  We hope that this information has been valuable to you!  Here at Timothy Roberts & Associates LLC, we believe in the importance of education and we want to support you and your family in your educational and financial pursuits.  Pass this information along to your family and friends.  Use our website at as a financial education tool for you and your family.  Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.  As always, stay tuned for our next issue of Global Money Solutions and have a great back to school shopping experience!

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