Back-to-school shopping is an exciting time for our kids (new bookbags, new clothes, new accessories), but for parents, the cost of the final bill can be a little intimidating. By the time you’ve bought new clothes, classroom supplies and paid for extracurricular activities, many of you will end up spending several hundred dollars per child. Unless you've been setting money aside all year, you'll need to determine what you can afford to spend on school-related expenses without blowing your overall budget. Scoring bargains won't help your bottom line if you end up paying interest on unpaid balances. Visa offers these tips to help keep spending within your budget.
Here are a few budgeting tips:
1. Make a list of what you'll need for each child. Use previous years' expenses as a guide and compare notes with other parents.
2. Tell your kids how much money you have available to spend. Get them involved in prioritizing expenses between "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves."
3. Don't buy everything all at once! Spread clothing purchases throughout the year so your kids don't outgrow everything at once.
4. Although shopping online can save money, time and gas, don't forget shipping and return costs, which could undo any net savings.
5. Ask your kids' teachers for lists of what you are expected to buy. Go in with other families to take advantage of volume discounts and sales.
6. Find out the cost of extracurricular activities (athletics, music, art). Account for uniforms, membership dues, private lessons, field trips, snacks, etc. Rent or buy used sporting equipment or musical instruments until you're sure they'll stick with an activity.
7. Factor in public transportation, school bus or carpool expenses.
8. Review the school's dress code so you don't waste money on inappropriate clothing. Also, for "gently used" items in the closets of your older kids, friends and neighbors, at garage sales, and thrift and consignment stores. Check out our Best of the Best issue for Boston Parent Paper readers’ favorite consignment stores and events.
9. Clip and save magazine, newspaper and online coupons.
10. Mobile shopping applications take online shopping to a whole new level by allowing in-store smartphone and mobile browser users to scan product barcodes and make on-the-spot price comparisons, read reviews, download coupons, buy products and more.
Bottom line: Plan ahead for back-to-school season and you'll save money, time and aggravation.