As the new school year quickly approaches, many parents are hitting the stores looking for deals on school supplies and other necessities for their child, like new shoes, clothes, electronics, lunchboxes and backpacks, among other gear.  For many families, buying school supplies is their single biggest expense when it comes to spending on their kids.  According to a poll by Ebates, given that expense is the number one stressor for parents, 80% look for deals to save money on back-to-school shopping and 61% create a budget.

Since supplies and other school related expenses can indeed add up throughout the year, here are 5 smart ways to get the most out of your back-to-school budget. 

Take inventory

Before you tackle your back-to-school list, take inventory on what your child already has.  Reuse as much of it as you can, especially if the items are still in good condition.  Contact your child’s teacher to find out what school supplies your child will need and what other expenses you can anticipate throughout the year, i.e., fundraisers, school trips, picture day, etc.  Be sure to watch for sales; you can save money on back to schoolby only buying the essential items right away and then purchasing the remaining school supplies once the back-to-school rush is over.

Stick to a budget

Back-to-school time is also a great opportunity to sit down with your child for a lesson in financial literacy.  Show them how much money you have to spend on clothing, then take them shopping and allow them to pick out the items that are within your predetermined budget.  You’ll be surprised how quickly your child puts an expensive name-brand item back on the shelf as they carefully try to make their budget stretch.

Tap into your online community

These days, most social media platforms offer online marketplaces located in your own community.  Parents with school-aged children down the street may be selling some of your back-to-school items second-hand at significantly lower prices than retail stores.  You could even arrange a clothing swap with another family in your neighborhood, yet another smart way to stretch your dollar.

Don’t forgo saving for the future

Don’t get caught up in the expenses of today without remembering to set money aside for tomorrow.  Though your child may still be young, it’s never too early to start thinking about their future education.  For many students, this means moving on to study at a college or university after graduation.  New clothing and school supplies will seem relatively inexpensive compared to the costs associated with paying for a higher education.  In Canada, one way to set money aside for the future and maximize your savings is by opening a Registered Education Savings Plan, or RESP through providers like Children’s Education Funds, Inc. (CEFI).  Besides knowing that when the time comes you’ll have money set aside to help your child, you’ll also benefit from the government’s contributions as well.

Save money on lunch

It may seem like the amount of money that most school cafeterias charge for lunch is minimal, however, over the course of a year, that money can add up.  Instead of purchasing a lunch, pack your child’s lunch with healthy, cost-efficient items you can buy at the store.  Again, check store flyers for sales and purchase some of those food items in bulk.  As the calendar moves closer to the first day of school, remember, having a plan in place and a budget in tow when you hit the stores will relieve some of your back-to-school anxiety, and keep your wallet happy too.

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