Back-to-school savings start before you leave the house

Make an inventory before you hit the back-to-school aisles.

Make an inventory before you hit the back-to-school aisles.

As many families will venture out over the next few weeks to start or continue back-to-school shopping (see our poll below), GreenPath Debt Solutions reminds shoppers that with some quick planning, you can keep more money in your wallet after checkout.

When it comes to school supplies and clothes, it can be an expensive couple of weeks: According to the National Retail Federation, a family with children in grades K-12 will spend $634 this year on their children for back to school needs.

Here are some suggestions from GreenPath:
1.    Before you leave the house, conduct an inventory of what you have now, including last year’s supplies and accessories (backpacks, etc.) Make a list of what the kids need and remove what they have outgrown. Consider filling a bag with the extra clothes to donate to charity or hand them down to younger siblings.

2.    Shop the sales smartly. Many stores sell items like crayons or spiral notebooks at very low cost into September, in order to get you in the door for bigger items. Stock up on those inexpensive notebooks and keep your kids in paper all year!

3.    Sales extend into September. Based on the initial rush of back-to-school shopping in late August (or lack thereof), great savings opportunities can extend into September. Also, outlets sometimes offer deep discounts to make room for winter and holiday clothing.

4.    Consider letting your kids purchase one new outfit for the first day of school. Then, put off the rest of the clothing shopping until the end-of-season sales begin in late September.

5.    Thrift stores are a great way to spend some time shopping for clothing. Nearly new looking items can almost always be found at low prices.

6.    Allow teens to start managing some of their own financial choices. Back-to-school shopping is a great way to start to hand over some decision making powers and give them a chance to learn money skills.
Depending on your teen’s maturity level, consider giving them a lump sum as their back-to-school money to spend.
GreenPath has set up a teen budget sheet at www.greenpath.org/university/welcome.htm to help them build a budget and track weekly spending.

7.    If you need to replace the family computer, the best time to purchase a computer could be nearer to the holidays, so you might delay this purchase if you can. If you do decide to purchase now, shop around, in-person and online, to find the best deal.

8.    Comparison shop. Shop on-line or use a smart phone app to compare prices. On-line shopping also lets you compare the prices of standard items like jeans or a particular brand of shoe. Another benefit to on-line shopping may be that there are fewer temptations to buy more than you intended.

9.    Have a plan for how you will pay for the purchases. Don’t use your credit card, unless you have a plan to pay the bill when it comes.

Remember, holiday shopping time will be here before you know it. If you already have a hefty balance on your credit card come October, it will be even harder to pay off in the coming months to avoid paying interest on the balance in 2014.

A little planning, patience and persistence can go a long way this back-to-school shopping season!

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