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Back to School on a Budget

Aug 28, 2014 12:02AM ● By Erin Frisch

While kids may be dreading going back to school, parents everywhere are most likely looking forward to it, with the exception of one part—possibly the only part kids do get excited about— back-to-school shopping. This annual rite can strain already-tight finances for many. If you’re looking for ways to save on back-to-school shopping, read on for some tips that can help.

Start by surveying what you already have. Take an inventory of the clothes in closets and dressers. Open up drawers and take out the contents. Decide what shape the clothing is in, what needs to be replaced, and what still fits and what doesn’t. Make a list of essentials and a list of those items that would be nice to have. Figure out what your budget will allow you to spend on new shoes and clothing. When you hit the stores, stick to your list of essentials; then, if there is money left over, choose one or two items from your nice-to-have list.

To save on clothes, organize a clothing swap or have a yard sale. Gather friends and neighbors with kids of different ages and sizes. Have everyone go through their kids’ closets and pull out items they are willing to swap. Most people have items in their wardrobe that have never been worn or have seen only light wear for one reason or another. This gives everyone involved a chance to update wardrobes while saving money. If you go the yard sale route, ask your kids to pick out items they are willing to part with, and tell them they can use the money they make to purchase new ones.

Try to recycle school supplies. Many items like backpacks, binders, and even notebooks can be recycled. Go through last year’s notebooks and tear out the few marked-up pages of those that are lightly used. Look through folders and recycle those that are still in good condition. Many binders hold up well over the school year and can be filled with new loose-leaf paper and recycled. Backpacks too can be updated and given new life with patches; some companies like Jansport even repair broken zippers and replace damaged backpacks for free. If you’re buying a new backpack, look for one with a lifetime warranty.

For great prices, check the dollar stores. Most dollar-store chains carry supplies like scissors, glue, pencils, pens, rulers, compasses, erasers, crayons, and more. Some even carry the brand names that you know and love, but you’ll get them for less than you’d spend at an office-supply chain store.

What tips and tricks can you share for sticking to your back-to-school shopping budget? Share with us below in the comments!

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