How to Ease Back-to-School Spending

For most Valley families, schools are back in session. That means that parents are shelling out more dollars to get their kids and classrooms equipped with the latest books, notebooks, supplies and more.

For some families, this could translate into an extra $100-$250 for their kids from the family budget. This isn’t surprising, as the National Retail Foundation has forecasted a 10% increase in back-to-school spending this year over last year.  

That’s a point that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Phoenix-based Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and debt management counseling agency. “Back-to-school costs pose a significant burden on many families during this season,” said Mike Sullivan, a personal finance consultant with Take Charge America.“School supplies cost more, while teachers are also looking for added help with the classroom supplies costs. It’s a tough time for many families in juggling their responsibilities. But spending can be minimized with careful planning and smart shopping.” 

To help families handle this increase in costs, here are 5 tips that should keep a little bit more cash in your pocket before sending their kids back to school this month.

  1. Reuse and Repurpose: Fortunately, the basic essentials needed by elementary and middle-school children remain the same year over year. Pens, pencils, notebooks, rulers and more can be used year over year. That can help ease new spending.
  2. Check the School List: Try to limit your purchases for the main needs on the school list. More often in Arizona, teachers are seeking funding for much of the shared classroom supplies. If you can help out, great! But if you’re on a strict budget, you can try to minimize your spending for the classroom.
  3. Check Sales: It seems like every store in the Valley is offering a back-to-school supplies section to get you inside the store. Check around, and you might be able to save more money at one store over another.
  4. Can It Wait?: Some teachers put their entire school year needs at the start of the year. If you can hold off on spending money for some items, do that, and catch up later. You’ll find that prices will drop significantly after Labor Day weekend.
  5. Buy secondhand or used items: If the kids need new clothes or accessories for school, try a discount retailer (or a Goodwill or Savers) in your neighborhood. You’ll see that many of these stores offer great bargains on new or slightly used items. Phoenix area folks in the know also check for lower-cost items on Offer Up or Craigslist.

Parents who need to get a tune-up of their finances after summer vacations should check out the links at takechargeamerica.org to find valuable information on budgeting, credit counseling, debt management and student loans.

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