5 Ways to Keep Your Back to School Shopping Budget In Check

clerk-18915_640It’s about that time of year again. That time when kids are trying to hang onto the last days of their freedom before school begins and when parents start to see the light at the end of tunnel. Soon parents won’t have to worry about entertaining and feeding their children every day all day.

It’s back to school time!

But, oh yeah, that means shelling out more money for supplies.

Every day I hear the same comments from parents at work and walking through the stores:

“Do they really need all this stuff?”

“Why can’t the teachers buy more of this stuff?”

“How am I going to afford all of this?”

I won’t be able to tell you if your kid will use absolutely everything on the school supply list. More than likely, yes. Or the items that your child doesn’t use can go to help a child in the class who truly cannot afford the supplies needed for the year.

So how about those teachers spending more money? They do. On average, a teacher will spend roughly $1000 a year for out of pocket expenses related to buying classroom supplies.

While those two questions are debatable and make for some interesting conversation, it’s the last question that always gets me. “How am I going to afford all this?”

Every family’s monetary situation is different. I get that. It’s the element of surprise that garners no sympathy.

Are you going back to school?  Don’t forget to check out our list of 30 cool careers you can jumpstart with MyCAA!

Every year around this time, the same thing happens. The aisles in the stores start getting crowded with crayons, folders, spiral notebooks, and funky colored Sharpees. Then the supply lists appear. A couple weeks later, the big yellow buses are back on the road to take the kids to school.

It should not come as a surprise that school starts the same time each year and that supplies need to be purchased each year. Yet, somehow, this big event catches families off guard. With the element of surprise still fresh, I can see how the page long list of supplies is intimidating to the bank account.

So how can you prepare for the school year without going broke?

Tips for Avoiding Back to School Sticker Shock

1. Prepare: Take the element of surprise out by remembering that school starts each year and you have to buy the appropriate supplies. Write it down on the calendar if you have to.
This will help with Budgeting! When you know that you have this expense coming up in advance, you can start to set money aside ahead of time for the supplies you’ll need. This will
help to lessen the blow to the wallet in the long run.

2. Friend a Teacher: There are some stores that will have a special shopping day for teachers to buy supplies they’ll need at a discount or tax free. If you do know a teacher, see if you can go shopping with them and then give them the money to purchase your items at the discounted price.

3. Tax Free Shopping: Shopping on a tax free weekend can help to save anywhere from 5% – 11% depending on the tax in your state. Each state has different dates and different items that are considered to be tax exempt so you’ll want to check that out first.

4. Price Comparison: Flyers and online ads are everywhere. Review your school list and compare that with the sales ads. Then you can make sure you’re getting the item at the best price.

5. Involve the Kids: Getting your kids involved in the shopping process can really be educational for them and can help them make better purchasing decisions now and later in life. It’s very tempting for kids to want the $4 Lisa Frank colorful folder instead of the plan color folders at .50 each.

Try making a back-to-school budget with them that outlines how much you have to spend towards school supplies.  Have your kids go item by time and do a cost comparison.  It’ll be an eye opener for sure!

For high schoolers, the school supplies get even more costly and the lesson in budgeting takes on a whole new meaning.  Who doesn’t remember that ever expensive graphing calculator?  Involve y our teen by encouraging them to contribute towards their supply list or school clothing list.  If there is a certain style of shoes or jeans they want that go above budget, have them pitch in the difference.

While the cost of school supplies is rising, it does not have to give you sticker shock!



  1. […] No. 1 reason I shop at the PX. A handful of states and cities are tax free on clothing or only at certain times of the year, but the Exchange is tax free all the time on everything. It’s the perfect time to really bank on […]


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