Tips for Spending Less on Back to School Supplies

With the return of the school year comes the need for school supplies. For many families, it’s an annual ritual that can be exciting as well as financially stressful. Before you run out and purchase everything on that long list sent to you from the school, take a few moments to consider other, more cost-efficient ways to approach your back-to-school shopping.

Establish a Back-to-School Budget

Perhaps the best place to start is to establish an education-related budget of what you might be willing to spend. If you end up spending less – great! The important thing is to be aware of your overall financial situation, particularly if times are tight.

Doing so will not just help your family stay within budget, but it will give you a larger sense of what household expenses are costing you and whether there is some other area that is sucking up too many of your hard-earned dollars. Some households may need to dip into their going-out fund, and it’s best to do so intentionally so you can rearrange your finances and compensate accordingly.

Review Each Item Before Buying School Supplies and Look for Alternatives

It’s not uncommon for parents to experience a kind of sticker shock when first receiving that list of supplies from the schools their kids attend. If everything is brought new, it can easily add up to hundreds of dollars per child! And, unfortunately, the cost might be even higher in a year when the cost of many common household goods have been inflated.

So, with that in mind, take a breath. Perhaps not everything on the list needs to be brand new – or purchased at all. Every school district is different and may have its own requirements. That said, here are ways to spend less on your back-to-school list:

  1. Start by gathering last year’s supplies to see if anything can be removed from the list.
  2. Look for second hand deals and places like dollar stores that have cheaper options.
  3. Take your time. Don’t buy everything all at once, or from the same location.
  4. Find out if there are any free resources available at the school or in your community.
  5. Ask around to find out if some items are optional.

If you have questions about what is necessary versus what is optional, contact the teacher and ask. You’re probably not the only parent who is wondering the same thing.

Shop Around for Better Deals

Many people don’t take the time to shop around for better deals. You could be wasting money on pens, notebooks and other expenses when cheaper alternatives are available. Doing a bit of research and comparing prices can help you save dollars that add up in the long term. Before each purchase, consider whether it’s something your child really needs – then ask yourself if you can find a better deal elsewhere.

Use a Prepaid Debit Card – or Give One to Your Teenager to Use at School

If you have a habit of spending a little too much in general, consider using a prepaid debit card for your child’s school supplies. These handy cards only allow the card holder to use the cash that’s already been loaded onto the card – keeping you or your teenage child from spending money you don’t have. Additionally, try not to use your credit card as a backup source of funds if possible.

Get Free School Supplies from Local Programs Like Back-to-School Illinois

Created by the Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois (CCEA), Back 2 School Illinois (B2SI) is the largest school supply distribution program in the state. It distributes free school supplies to underserved students in need. What other local programs are there in your community?

Use Smart Financial CCEA Services

Times have been tough for a lot of families in the past year. The start of the school year can bring up concerns about how to cover all of a child’s education expenses over the next nine months. If you’re struggling in this area, or simply don’t like the idea of overspending, reach out to someone you trust to share your feelings with.

In addition, you will find that using smart financial strategies year round will help you feel more in control of your money when September comes around. Keep in mind that Currency Exchanges throughout the Midwest offer many financial and auto services to help folks stay on top of their finances. Services at CCEA such as prepaid debit cards don’t rely on credit, are transparent and encourage healthy financial habits.

While you’re here, take care of any lingering transportation-related tasks, as well. Whether to replace lost or stolen stickers, get a Ventra card, register a new vehicle, or even handle small business tasks, there is a whole lot you can accomplish, all under one roof. Unlike a bank or the DMV, the lines are short. Our helpful assistants will help you through the process so you can be out the door in no time.

Check us out online or swing by to see how we help people cash their checks, pay their bills, and take care of other financial tasks.

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With over 350 locations, many open nights, weekends, and holidays (and several stores with 24/7 availability), you can rest easy knowing your financial needs can be taken care of when you need them most. We’re in the heart of every community. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.