4 Ways To Lower Your Family’s Back To School Budget


By: Anna

Is what to buy for Back To School on your mind? Yes it’s that time again when the beautiful and blissfully relaxing summer comes to an end. The leaves start to change colour and you know it’s time for your children (or you if you’re an adult learner!) to go back to school, but at what cost?

For many children, back to school usually means that they get a new outfit, new backpack, new pencil-case, new stationary, or *gasp* even a new electronic gadget!  The back to school budget can easily be busted with the rising cost of goods and inflation, and how these days, high school children want the best of everything.

In fact, this year in 2012, 63% of parents plan to spend an average of $500 (Source) for the back to school budget for their children, this number is more inflated than last year likely because of the same parents polled, 40% plan to buy gadgets and electronics for their kids this year.

Back to school can be a great opportunity to engage your child and teach your children about money.

Here are some ways in which you can lower your family’s back to school budget this year.

1. Make a budget with your child

Make a list together with your child about what they need for back to school and the approximate or estimated cost of these goods.  Do research together on flyers, sales, and other back to school events available in your neighbourhood.  For example, work together to try and find a college or university student friend or family member who doesn’t need to buy an iPad this year-Apple offers an annual education discount for their products.  This year, they are giving you a $50 gift card for buying an iPad.

Let your child know that there is a limit (your budget) to the total cost of the back to school supplies and clothes, and that if the budget is not exceeded, your child could keep half of money saved to use on what they would like.  This will more likely work on a preteen or teenager, as they would be more motivated about saving money for what they really want to buy.

Potential savings: $50

2. Hand Me Downs, Consignment Stores, Thrift Stores

Although school age children may balk at the idea of hand me downs from their older sibling, hand me downs are a great way to cut the cost of your back to school budget.

Consignment and thrift stores are a great way to save money for back to school.  High school children especially, may find this idea “cool” because well, it’s the new cool thing now.  Thrift store shopping gives you unique goods that they likely can’t find anywhere else.

Potential savings: $100+

3. Re-use what you can re-use

Back to school items like backpacks, pencil cases, and even binders can really be re-used (unless they are in terrible shape, which unfortunately can be the likely scenario).

Talk to your child about recycling and re-using and the impact that him or her NOT buying a new backpack/iPad/iPhone/pencil-case can have on the environment.  Explain how saving money by re-using something that can be re-used can benefit your child because there will be more money for fun activities.  This begins teaching your child about values and the symbolism towards our own values that money can have in our lives.

Potential savings: $50+

4. For the big wants, work on it together

For the big “wants” like iPods, iPads, and other big gadgets, talk to your child about the pros and cons of getting another gadget. If your child has been rewarded for good behaviours (like chores, mowing the lawn etc.), offer to pay for half of the “want” and work on this want over the summer.

Having your child work hard for the money teaches them about the value of money and will inevitably teach them to treasure their new splurge because they worked so hard at it.

As a 13 year old on my first day of high school, although my mother bought me expensive $80 London Pepe jeans (those were the upper limits of jean prices in those days…none of that $200+ price tag!), I didn’t really wear them that much after the first year.  I remember kicking up a big fuss about wanting them.  However, I know that if my mother told me no and came up with a strategy for me to work hard to get them, I would have treasured them even more.

As the economy continues to be unpredictable, saving money for the future is important for your family.  Teaching your child about money is important and the weeks prior to back to school can be a great opportunity to do this.

Do you have any other back to school budgeting tips you’d like to share?

Guest Post By- Anna, owner of Bargainmoose.ca, the Canadian shopping community for deals,coupon codes and freebies. Anna is sharing an article with some tips and ideas on saving cash when doing the “back to school” shopping.

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  1. **WINNER** Congratulations to Deborah M A Haentjens liked, shared and commented….for WINNING our BACK TO SCHOOL QUICKIE!!
    This was her blog comment…
    I always made a point of taking inventory of what we had before going out and buying it all. Also liked to take advantage of clothing sales. I’m also a big fan of comparison shopping and always check out the flyers for the best deals. With most flyers online and store price matching, this has become so much easier.

    Thanks to everyone who shared and commented on the Blog… You all make me smile!! Deb please email me your address to canadianbudgetbinder@yahoo.ca

  2. Some great tips! My daughter is going into Grade 1 this coming school year and was sent home with a list of items she will need come September. Will keep an eye out on the flyers for any deals. She somehow completely wears out her backpacks so will need a new one for sure. I usually never pay full price for clothing, I look for sales. Thanks for sharing.

  3. when I was a kid at the end of the school year Mom would go into the supplies we had remaining and save what would be good for the next year(pencil cases, erasers etc), if there was something expensive we wanted, we would save our allowance or any earnings (paper route) from the summer to buy it before the new school season. Any clothes purchased, Mom would make sure they were a little big, so when we grew, the clothes would fit a little longer.

    1. That was smart to do as some people just toss everything at the end of the year and want new stuff come school term beginning. Most people I know buy clothes a bit bigger for kids and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as they are not falling off the kids lol… Cheers and thanks for commenting Stephanie. Mr.CBB

  4. I always made a point of taking inventory of what we had before going out and buying it all. Also liked to take advantage of clothing sales. I’m also a big fan of comparison shopping and always check out the flyers for the best deals. With most flyers online and store price matching, this has become so much easier.

    1. Shopping for clothes and items online are easier than ever now. If you find a comparable or better deal online even better. Taking inventory is smart as some parents buy more than the kids need. Do the schools tell parents in Canada what to buy? Thanks Deb!

  5. Mr cbb sent me over from fb 🙂 we save by couponing, turning off lights, drying our clothes outside and trying to conserve as much energy as possible. I have a small compact car with a family of 5 lol

  6. My son will be starting Kindergarten in September and I will be saving by recycling what’s already in my house. He already has a backpack from when he was 2 that is still in great shape. I have also been checking out clearance sections and thrift shops.

  7. Some great tips! I have received bargainmoose daily emails for years now 🙂 I have a ton of clothes in the next size and the size after that for my 20 month old. Most from freecycle and friends. I intend on keeping them until I *hopefully* have my next child and then when I don’t need them anymore I will consign them and sell them at a yard sale. I buy school supplies since I am a TA and I tend to buy things when they go on clearance in October or November 🙂

  8. Great article! One year my husband and I went away on our Anniversary trip the weekend before school started and my Dad and Step Mom offered to take our children back to school shopping with $35.00 each at our local Walmart for school supplies, backpacks, and lunch boxes. They went to a thrift store and got their backpacks, they each bought an inexpensive lunch bag, and Dad told them they could keep the change of whatever they didn’t spend. Both of my children had $13 to $16 each leftover……I wish my Dad could have taken them every year. Also as a side not there is no rule that children need anew backpack every year my son has been using the same Jansport backpack since 8th grade and my daughter used the same pink Lands End one for three years of high school. I also clean and sanitize lunch boxes and would wash backpacks too to extend their life!

    1. If I had a child and their back pack was sufficient and not ruined you can bet they either use it or find another sack as i won’t pay for a new one. We need to teach kids that using items until they are no longer able is not a bad thing, it’s a smart thing. Cheers Mr.CBB

  9. My daughter is 2, and I have clothing for her for the next year or so… but sometimes I come across a piece that I forgot to use, and she’s then too big for it! You have to be super-organised to do that 🙂

      1. Good tips :). My son is going to start out using his backpack from last year. I will buy a new one after all the clearance sales are on and his has a bit more wear to it. I figure this way, i can get a better one at a cheaper price! 😉

  10. Good post. 🙂 If your kids are balking at the idea of thrift store clothing or hand-me-downs, perhaps some refashioning will help. There are some good sites out there with information on how to easily update clothing. If your kids are old enough to sew, they might even enjoy doing this themselves. Here are a couple of blogs that provide good refashioning tips: http://fourtyninedresses.blogspot.ca/ and http://www.uberchicforcheap.com/search/label/refashion

  11. My kids aren’t school age yet but I do think it’s a great idea to save money by buying used clothes. Consignment stores, craigslist, and garage sales can all be good places to get almost new clothing. My kids are 1 and 3 and I already have their wardrobes through about size six stored up! Woot!

    1. Wow, that’s the name of the game getting ahead provided they fit in the wardrobe when the time comes. What would you do if that happened, just sell it again? We love consignment stores, thrift stores and online sites like craigslist and kijiji. Thanks for sharing Holly1! Mr.CBB

      1. Well, I have two girls so it’s all bound to fit one or both of them at one time or another!

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