After you’ve swept up the debris of fireworks from Independence Day, you may realize that summer is half over. If you’re a parent, it’s a good idea to start thinking and budgeting for back-to-school shopping. Outside of Christmas, back-to-school shopping is often the most expensive time of year for parents. You know your kids will need school supplies, but do they really need that new backpack? This week I’ll review where most parents misstep when they stock up for another academic year.
Shop the Drawers First
I’ll be the first person to admit that there’s just something about a fresh box of crayons that makes the start of another school year feel real. For some of your other supplies, it’s important to take a hard look at what’s really necessary to purchase new. If your family is like mine, you’ve probably got a drawer full of pens and pencils that can be reused. The same goes for last semester’s lightly used binders or notebooks. It’s also a pretty safe bet that your student doesn’t need a new calculator or USB drive.
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Budget First, Buy Second
There are, of course, things you’ll need to purchase new. While many schools will send out the information as soon as they can, feel free to contact your child’s school and request a list of what your student will need so you can start putting together a budget. Once you have a good idea of how much and what will need to be purchased, start doing your research. You might find better deals online for basic supplies like paper or pens. If you have more than one child, look at bulk deals online or at a warehouse store and weigh out the per-item cost.
Dress to Impress
Pens and snack-packs aren’t the only back-to-school items you’ll need. For many of us, the late summer and early fall is a great time to update the kids’ wardrobes. And, as quickly as so many of them grow, the first place to hit should be a thrift shop. You can find great deals on brand-name clothes for your little ones. There are online options for this as well, sites such as ThredUP (https://www.thredup.com/), if you aren’t finding what you need at the consignment shops.
Lastly, you’ll want to mark your calendars for the upcoming Missouri Back to School Tax Holiday. This takes place the first weekend of August. The tax holiday covers much more than just clothing and supplies; you can also save money on electronics such as laptops and tablets, which are more necessary than ever for students. Supporting equipment, such as speakers, printers and sound cards, qualify for the tax break as well. http://dor.mo.gov/business/sales/taxholiday/school/faq.php
The circulars and junk mail will be arriving to your home or inbox soon. Don’t immediately throw them into the trashcan. Instead, get an idea of costs and start preparing your budget. Think of it as setting a good example for the kids – even Mom and Dad have to do their homework!
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.