BY ELISABETH HALL, FINANCIAL PROFESSIONAL
With the average family of four spending about $600 on back to school supplies, it’s no wonder parents are looking for ways to cut costs. Pencils, pens, notebooks and binders may not seem like large purchases, but they do add up. Before you bring the kids out to the local retailer, try these ideas first to reduce your out of pocket expenses.
Search the House
Opening up the family “junk drawer” may have more promise than you might think. Pens, pencils, erasers, rubber bands, etc., all seem to have a way of collecting in one spot. Check in your children’s bedrooms to see if they have notebooks and binders that could be used another year. Many times a notebook may only have a few used pages in the front that could be easily removed and used again. The same is true for binders that only need a new ream of lined paper inserted.
Stick to a Budget
Before heading to the store, decide on a manageable budget for school supplies. Share this budget with your children so they know ahead of time what you can afford to spend. This simple step will save you having to argue about the cost of items while in the school supplies aisle. If your kids find items that they “must” have, instead of denying them the purchase, work out a compromise. Tell your children that you’re more than willing to share the cost of the item with them, if they are willing to use their own money to pay the other half. Asking children to pay a portion for the items that are special and unique is important. Allowing your children to become aware of what things cost and how difficult it is to part with hard earned money is an important lesson. Perhaps when faced with the prospect of having to spend their own money, the need for a particular item will diminish.
Another strategy for relieving some of the back to school pressure is to not buy all items at the same time. Your child won’t be able to use every item on the first day of school, so space out how much you buy at one time. Take the time to talk to your child’s teacher and identify the items that are needed immediately, and those items that could wait. By the time October rolls around, many stores have huge discounts on all the unsold school supplies. This would be the time to take advantage of some great deals.
Many families overlook the advantages of using coupons to buy just about everything. A huge stack of coupons can be found each weekend in the local newspaper. It is definitely worth the $ .50 cost of the paper to receive several dollars worth of savings at the store. When back to school time approaches, comb and clip coupons for savings on paper, pens, binders, and everything else needed for the classroom. Another great source for coupons is the Internet. Today, there are many websites that offer printable coupons that can easily be brought to the store to use. For those who prefer to shop online for supplies, never check out without a coupon code. These codes can also be found online simply by typing in a keyword in one of the many search engines. Many times a coupon can help kids buy those special and unique items without paying any more for it.
One of the best ways to save on school supplies, or anything, is to purchase the items when they go on sale throughout the entire year. Buying something when everyone else wants it too makes it difficult to find the best deals. But, by buying up supplies all year round, you’ll find great prices on everyday items. Set aside a small plastic tote at home and add school supplies to it gradually throughout the year. By the time September rolls around, your children will be all set for a great year.
Elisabeth A. Hall is a Financial Professional with Alliance Advisory Group in Jamestown, NY. She serves as Vice President of the local National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors for Chautauqua County and is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table. Mrs. Hall can be reached by calling (716) 483-1531 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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