Post by Contributing Writer, Rachael
It is almost fall, which for many families means the back-to-school excitement has begun. Regardless of your schooling choice, every school year starts with an assessment of our kids’ supplies and needs for the upcoming year.
This year consider these frugal tips as you prepare for the upcoming school year:
Every year, a collection of classroom basics are needed. Pencils, pens, crayons, rulers, etc. Ease would tell us to go to the closest and most inexpensive store and purchase what we need. Before you head out on your shopping extravaganza try one of these methods first!
What supplies do you have around your house? It is time for a treasure hunt! Engage your kids and start looking. Places to look include your family’s junk drawer (or drawers!), your home art center, mom and dad’s office area and any collections of neglected supplies from last year.
Make sure you have a large space like a dining room table or living room floor to put all your treasures. Once everything is laid out, divide supplies in good condition between the kids in your family as needed.
You might be surprised at what is hiding in that long lost bottom desk drawer!
Let your family and friends know you are gathering school supplies and ask them to join you. Challenge family members without children to have their own treasure hunt for gently used supplies around their house.
Also, if you have family and friends that work in an office setting, ask if there are gently used supplies that their companies are planning to get rid of or are willing to donate. Companies often change supply providers or receive free samples that are put in a back closet and often forgotten about. Instead of letting these items go to waste let people know there are kids out there happy to use them!
If you aren’t able to gather all the supplies you need from the methods above, shop local sales BUT make sure you have a plan.
Don’t forget to look at stores like dollar stores or office supply stores for good deals. Also, don’t feel obligated to shop at big box stores. Your local teacher supply store or grocery store may have equally good sales.
Before you leave the house know where the best sales are. This is best done by searching for local ads, price comparing and collecting coupons from newspapers and online manufactures.
Another assessment that seems to take place at the start of each school year is clothing for the upcoming season. With newspaper, TV and online advertisements it is easy to feel as if your child needs an entirely new wardrobe.
Instead of feeling pressure to reclothe your kids, first be thankful for what they already have then take a look at what they truly need.
Make a list for each child of their needed items and begin there.
Here are a couple fun methods for filling in the those few empty hangers!
Organize a clothing swap! Invite families with children within a certain size range to swap clothing. My best clothing swaps have covered 3-4 sizes (for example 2T – 5T) with 7-10 families being invited.
First set a date, time, location and decide your clothing size and number of invitations.
Second, establish your swap rules. Generally I’ve asked people to provide gently used clothing (no holes or tears), seasonal (for the upcoming season or two) that they are willing to give away (and not have returned). I’ve also given families the option to donate remaining clothes at the end of the swap or take them back home with them, just to make sure I don’t end up with everyone’s left overs and no plan!
Third, enjoy your swap. On the day of a swap make sure you have several tables where families can lay out their clothing (and perhaps shoes!) by size for easy browsing. Let everyone begin browsing at the same time so no one feels as if an unfair advantage is given.
If you enter your swap with a simple list of needed items you are more likely to leave with what you need. Swapping gives both you and your friends the opportunity to have new-to-you school clothes for free!
Another great idea for back to school basics is thrifting. Again, a list of what you need is an essential start to your shopping trip.
Start your thrifting a month before school starts. You may need to return a couple different times to find everything you need. Thrift stores generally receive donations on a daily basis so their inventory changes over quite often. Take advantage of the changing inventory and become a frequent shopper before school starts.
Also, don’t limit yourself to a favorite thrift store. Make sure you take advantage of thrift stores through out your town both large and small. During peak seasons people donating items tend to take advantage of drop-offs that are close to them or have convenient donation hours.
Finally, remember that even thrift stores have sales! Check to see when sales are at your local thrift store. Sales range from “fill a bag for $5” to “all yellow tags are $1”. You may be able to get twice the items at half the thrift store price!
The beginning of the school year does not have to be a budget crusher! With a little creative thinking and some perceptive planning your kids can go to school fully stocked at just the right price!
Have a back to school tip or trick? We’d love to know it about it in the comments!
Rachael shares financial tips from her kitchen table surrounded by her two active toddlers and her husband. God has called her from corporate life into His grace as an at-home wife! She shares about her passion for motherhood and life five days a week at To Be a Mom…
If you have a financial question or topic you would like us to discuss leave a comment or send us an email!