Parents with kids in grade school through high school will shell out an average of $684 to prepare for the 2018-19 back to school -- the third highest total since the National Retail Federation has been tracking the amount in its annual back-to-school survey.
Shoppers, according to the survey, plan to spend the most on clothing -- about $236. But electronics, such as computers, phones and high-end calculators, will cost them an average of about $187. New shoes will add up to another $138. And supplies such as notebooks, pencils, crayons, backpacks and lunch boxes will total about $122.
For some families, this annual kick in the wallet is manageable and easily paid off when the credit card bill arrives. For many families, however, it can send a tight budget into a downward spiral.
But back to school spending doesn’t have to send your finances into a tailspin. There are ways to save on the things your children need as they head back to school. And the first place frugal parents should look when they need to cut costs are their friends, family members and neighbors who are probably hoping to save some money too.
Here are three ways to save when you team up with those you know at the start of the school year.
Hold a clothing swap
All the pants in your kids’ dresser drawers may be high waters. And the tops? Well, after a few months stowed away, they might unintentionally show off your son or daughter’s midriff.
Kids grow lightning fast. And when it’s time to try on last year’s cold-weather clothes, parents often are shocked to just see how much bigger and taller their kids have gotten.
It’s likely your neighbors, friends and family members are coming to the same conclusions as they pick through what’s available in their kids’ dressers. And there’s a good chance they’d rather not hit the mall to spend hundreds of dollars to outfit their offspring.
So why not organize a clothing swap? Get a group of friends, family members or neighbors together so you have wide range of sizes and styles to pick from.
The Minimalist Mom blog has some tips for hosting a successful clothing swap. And, if you do organize a swap, consider branching out beyond clothing to include books, toys and other gear that your kids need.
Go in together on bulk school supply purchases
Nobody’s school supply list will ask for 200 pencils. Or 500 crayons. Or 16 pounds of notebook paper. But when you consider all the supplies that the kids of your friends, family and neighbors need for the upcoming school year, it’s likely to add up to that -- or more.
Once you know what your children will need, consider going in together on bulk school supplies at your local warehouse store. Splitting the cost for these necessities could save you a good chunk of change.
But be sure to wait until you know exactly what your kids will need. You can waste big money when you make assumptions about what will be on that school supply list -- loading up, for instance, on multiple notebooks when a single binder with dividers is what’s required.
Share carpool duties
If there are multiple families from your neighborhood driving to the same school for drop off and pick up each day, launching a carpool could be a big time and money saver all year. Consider rotating drivers daily, weekly or, even, monthly. VeryWell Family has tips on finding the right people for a school carpool.
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child -- and that includes working together to raise them on your budget. What are your tips for saving on back to school items for your kids? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!
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