The back to school season can be a very busy and exciting time for moms. With the summer break winding down, your kids are looking forward to seeing all of their friends again, and you’re probably planning trips to go shopping for new clothes, replacement pens and notebooks, and trying to get your kids back on a regular sleep schedule.
But knowing your kids are about to return to the classroom can also be a very stressful time for some families. In addition to those worries all moms share about whether their kids will like their new teachers, keep up their grades, and other concerns, going back to school can be very burdensome on finances. According to a report by NBC News, the average cost to send a K-12 student back to school for the year was $1,000, which is also the average mortgage paid in the U.S. every month.
That can be a great deal of money to have to spend all at once, and it can set families back for several months. We all understand the struggle you’re going through, and so we’ve compiled some tips that will help save you money, stress, and give you peace-of-mind, knowing that your kids have everything they need, and that you’ll still afford all of your bills easily.
Learn to Coupon
Couponing is a money-saving technique that moms have been using for well over one hundred years now. The biggest advantage that couponing can offer is, if you can catch a coupon you can actually use, it’s 100% free to you, and it really works. U.S. Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) reported that, in 2017, they distributed about $4.3 billion worth of coupons, and shoppers saved an average of $2080 a year. Bottom line: couponing has the potential to fund all of your back to school shopping.
Couponing is very easy to do, and all you’ll need to get started is a pair of scissors, a computer, a printer, and something to store your coupons in, like a binder. The first thing you need to understand is that, to ensure you’re finding all of the deals that can save you money, you need to allocate about two hours each week to couponing. Whether you put in all the time at once or spread it throughout the week, is up to you. Regardless, you should at least plan to do some couponing Monday night, since most stores send their coupons out early in the week, so customers have plenty of time to plan a shopping trip to take advantage. Check back Thursday or Friday also to make sure you’re aware of those weekend-only sales.
To find your coupons, get a subscription to your local newspaper, and save those inserts! They’re where the majority of coupons will be found. Additionally, go online and find your preferred retailers’ website; if they have an option to join a mailing list for deals and discounts, get yourself signed up!
Take Advantage of Tax Free Days
Most states within the continental U.S. offer tax free weekends, usually in early August, specifically to help families prepare for back to school. During these periods, in-store, and most online purchases, will be sales tax free. Each state has its own stipulations about what qualifies, such as the type of items, or the maximum amount you can spend before sales taxes kick in, so research your state’s tax free holidays and take advantage.
Back to School and Other Sales
If you’re a mom, you’re probably already knee-deep in saving money by shopping during sales. If not, you need to be. Sales drive revenue for business, and outside of holidays, the back to school season is huge, because it’s one of the few times in the year that retailers can guarantee more people will be shopping than usual. Additionally, if you can get your school’s essential supply list early enough, consider shopping just after the school year is out – businesses will mark down notebooks, pencils, pens and other school supplies to make space for the next year’s inventory.
When it comes to your kids, many moms are very hesitant about buying used. It’s understandable: you’re concerned about paying more than an item’s worth, whether or not it will wear out too quickly, or if it will be clean enough for your child. These are valid concerns, but the reality is, buying used presents an opportunity for you to save a lot of money. ABC News reported in 2010 that second-hand stores had grown by 35% revenue a year, compared to 2% for normal retailers. From your perspective, that trumpet your middle-schooler needs to start band could cost upwards of $400 at a music store, but you can walk in a pawn shop and get one that works just as well for $100.
Start a Savings Account
This is probably the most difficult method to manage, and it involves a lot of guesswork, but if you don’t have time to coupon, hit every sale from here to first period, or don’t want to risk spending too much of your credit limit, this can be a viable option. To start, get a copy of your school’s essential supply before the school year starts, at least six months in advance if possible. Pick the retailer(s) you’re planning to shop at for your back to school supplies, and calculate how much you’ll spend. Add on 10% of your total, to account for price shifts and inflation, and then start making your monthly deposits to save.
You don’t have to start a brand new account to do this; you can just add it into an account you already have open. In addition to the advantages we’ve already mentioned, this method will allow you to spend money you actually have, instead of accumulating more debt.
Take Out a Personal Loan
Most people don’t automatically consider a loan to pay for back to school, but it offers several options to you that you can’t get through traditional saving and shopping. First, a personal loan can give you more time to pay off your back to school debt. You may not be able to afford $1,000 dollars at the drop of a hat, but you probably could afford to pay $22 a month over three years.
Additionally, a personal loan will allow you the opportunity to improve your credit score while you buy what you need. Since your approval for a loan increases your total credit limit, it can drive your score up by several points. There are many personal loan options available to you, even if your credit score isn’t great.