Can you believe there are only 169 shopping days until Christmas, the biggest (and most expensive) shopping time of the year? Don’t stress, I’m not going to start talking about the holidays even though some retailers are already putting out decorations. I know, I know.
But let’s step back a few months and start preparing for another expensive (and budget busting) time of the year:back-to-school shopping!
Please know this time of year doesn’t have to break your budget — if you start now and shop smart. Come to think of it, that sounds like my holiday shopping strategy!
Jack isn’t even in kindergarten yet, so I can’t speak from experience. But I’ve picked up some great pointers from my CommunityAmerica colleague, fellow Savin’ Maven and mom of two teenagers, Sheri Baker.
Save All Year: The back-to-school shopping timeframe shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone — it happens at the same time every year. Add this as a line item in your budget and save for it all year. And be strict about it — set up auto-transfers to fund the account and make sure you don’t dip into these funds if an emergency arises. (That’s what your emergency fund is for!)
Shop (end-of-season) sales: Sure, shopping sales is obvious, but hitting up the end-of season sales can save you even more. Kids grow quickly, so stock up throughout the year for items they’ll need next year. Another option is to shop consignment. Not only will this save you money, it allows you to do purging and clean out your closets at the same time.
Involve the kids: Since your shopping for your kids, why not get them involved? Use this as a learning experience; give each child a budget and allow them to purchase the items they need. Work with them to compare prices, evaluate what they already have, etc.
This helps them learn important decision-making skills as well as allows them to pick out the things they want. It’s a win-win situation.
Save the biggest for last. In some cases, it does pay to wait until almost the last minute.
Or, should I say, plan for it. For clothes and big-ticket electronic items like laptops and e-readers, take advantage ofMissouri’s sales tax holiday
, August 2-4. Look for retailers to battle for your back-to-school business with big-time sales on this tax-free weekend.
These can add up to serious savings. Say a $1,500 computer is slashed to $1,300 for the weekend. Subtract the sales tax you would have paid, and you just scored a $350 discount.
No matter what you’re shopping for, it’s important to comparison shop see if the retailerhas a price-matching policy, which can help maximize your savings even further.
And my final tip is to save your savings: Reallocate what you would have spent (whencompared to your actual expenses) and set that aside for next year’s back-to-school shopping time. See, you’re already ahead of the game just like that!
It’s never too early to learn or (too late really) to develop smart purchasing habits. Make it a priority before back-to-school takes a bite out of your budget. You’ll be that much better prepared when Black Friday comes.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.