Are you normal when it comes to school supplies?
Written by Matt Wegner
Founder and Lead Counselor, Matt Wegner Coaching, www.financialexcellence.net
According to the National Retail Federation, the average family with school-aged children will spend
$594.24 this year on new clothes, shoes and supplies for school. In reviewing our budget, my wife and I quickly realized we are not average. As with all financial matters we take pride in being weird, and school supplies were no different this year. For one child in elementary school and one in pre-school we spent less than 20% of the national average. While it may be a little late for this year, we thought we would pass on our (my wife’s) saving secrets for next year.
* Use the same lunch box more than one year. A little care to keep it clean goes a long way.
* Buy neutral (non-character) backpacks so the kids don’t outgrow them each year. We bought a new backpack for our daughter this year, but the previous one lasted four years.
* Recycle school supplies, such as crayons, colored pencils, markers, pens etc. Each year our daughter uses only half of these. Rather than buying new we combine old partial sets to make one complete set.
* Look around the house for materials and supplies. Glue, pens, pencils, highlighters, notebooks and folders all seem to accumulate in different parts of our house. We simply round them up and use them again.
* Watch the sale ads! If you time it right, many stores will offer supplies for pennies or even free with rebates or coupons. For those of us with school starting after Labor Day, the sales started at the beginning of August. It’s hard to think about school in early August, but the savings are worth planning ahead.
* Buy clothes from clearance racks, consignment shops, or garage sales. You’d be amazed at the quality and value you can find for kids’ clothes if you are willing to shop around a little.
* When schools require a separate set of gym shoes, consider using last year’s school shoes for gym class (or vice versa). With the cost of shoes, you can save a lot by only purchasing one pair.
* Look for off-brand items. Your child’s self esteem will be ok if they don’t have ALL the latest brands. Trust me. They’ll get over it.
These are just a few of the things we did to save a little money this year. Of course, the biggest advantage we gave ourselves was setting a spending limit when we did our monthly spending plan, or budget. Having a written plan does wonders in helping avoid impulse or unnecessary spending. These concepts and tools apply to any category of life, so don’t be afraid to give it a shot!