Written by Dominique Jarry Shore
Friday, August 24th, 2018
It seems the summer just flies by when you've got kids in school. That end-of-year picnic with my son's class seems like it happened a few weeks ago. But as September approaches, there's no denying the school year is right around the corner, and it's time to get organized.
Two of my three children are school-aged, and back-to-school shopping can definitely be a real drain on my family's budget. Here are some ways I've managed to keep costs down.
1. Recycle and Reuse School Supplies
When my 6-year-old son finished kindergarten last year, his teacher helpfully sent home all his leftover school supplies. While some things were beyond recycling (like markers with no caps and scribbled-on notebooks), there were many items that will make it into this year's pencil case and backpack.
Before going out to buy a whole new set of school supplies, I take the time to sort through the previous year's school supplies. My 13-year-old daughter does the same. Her school actively encourages recycling school supplies by making a note of it on the annual school supply list.
We also find it helpful to check cupboards, closets and storage spaces for items we already have and don't need to buy. My husband recently cleaned out some cupboards in our kitchen and found two much-needed back-to-school items: an insulated lunch bag, and a backpack. We'd forgotten we had them! You might be surprised what you already have kicking around your home if you look around.
2. Use Secondhand Clothes
Do we really need to buy brand new clothes? I've been lucky enough to have a few friends who pass down a lot of their children's clothing to me.
I pay it forward by passing the clothes on to friends with younger children once I'm done with them. It's true that as kids get older, they tend to wear out their clothes a little more, but my 6-year-old still benefits from hand-me-downs. My 13-year-old enjoys browsing for clothes in thrift shops and tends to wear a mix of used and new clothes.
I also belong to a Facebook group of local parents who are often selling or exchanging used clothes and kids' items. There's even a Facebook group in my city dedicated to giving kids stuff away for free. These groups and sites like Craigslist and Kijiji are great ways to find stuff for free or next to nothing.
3. Budget for Big Ticket Items
Even though I recycle school supplies and benefit from used clothing, there are still things I need to buy for my kids for back-to-school. For these items I try to allocate a certain amount of money and stick to my budget.
One item I find expensive are children's shoes. I like to get good quality shoes that won't fall apart. Because I'm able to save on clothes and school supplies, I can set aside a little more money for a big ticket item like a good pair of shoes. Shopping around and checking out sales can help. I avoid the madness of back-to-school shopping and potentially get some deals by starting my shopping earlier in the summer.
4. Label Everything
Finally, because I don't want to spend money on replacing items my kids have lost, I take some time to label everything as clearly as I can. This year I'm going to try not to let anything go unlabelled. Last year we had to replace my daughter's gym uniform during the school year because she lost it, and it wasn't labelled. That was about $30 down the drain. Kids will always lose things, but labelling increases your chances of finding them again.