August 17, 2023

8 ways to save money on back-to-school shopping

Back to school shopping can come with a hefty cost but it doesn’t have to. We look at the best ways to find savings when shopping for a new school year.

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8 ways to save money on back-to-school shopping

Young family back-to-school shopping

Love it or loathe it, the kids will be heading back to school shortly. The last thing you want is to end up with more debt on your credit card and less money in your pocket. If you haven’t yet finished your back-to-school shopping, don’t panic. Use these tips to get through it without adding to your debt load.

Back-to-school spending continues to get more expensive every year, and a lot of Canadian parents confess that spending on back-to-school essentials is a financial burden. It’s no wonder.

For families who are already feeling squeezed from inflation, this season can put a further strain on tight budgets or max out an already high debt load.

8 thrifty ways to cross those supplies off your list

Lazy days at the cottage, picnics at the beach…the long days of summer are winding down and it’s time to gear up and get ready for a regular routine. But getting your kids prepared for school doesn’t mean you’ll need to buy everything on their school list all at once. Here’s where to start:

1. Re-use and take stock 

Did you set aside the “leftover” school supplies at the beginning of the summer? It’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. Take some time to go over what you have on hand already. Last year’s pencil cases, highlighters, pencil crayons and backpacks are still probably in good shape, which can save you the cost of buying some new items this year.

2. Stick to a spending plan 

Go over your monthly budget to see how much money you have to put toward school shopping this month. Make a list and stick to it. If you can, stick to cash when shopping which can really help you avoid overspending and turning to credit, especially if you’re already carrying a balance on your card. Only buy what you need. Don’t spend money on things that will only help your kids impress their peers. Never feel guilty about telling your kids, “I can’t afford it.” It’s the best money advice you can give them. 

3. Spread out your spending 

Start by focusing on the essentials. If you have a box of pens at home, you don’t need to buy a new one. August is a great month to buy backpacks and school supplies like paper, pencils and binders. Wait to buy other supplies if you can. For instance, holding out until October for the bulk of kids’ clothes shopping means you’ll score some killer clearance deals. The same is true for tech deals which go on sale toward the end of September to make room for holiday sales.

If you do need to buy new clothes for kids, consider buying second-hand items. You can save a bundle with a trip to a thrift shop on clothing.

4. The dollar store is your friend

With inflation biting everyone’s bank accounts, it’s best to avoid stores that specifically cater to school and office supplies. These stores often add a huge markup to the price of items. Dollar stores sell the same items for a fraction of the price. A pack of pens at an office supply store might cost twice what the same pack would at the dollar store.

5. Use a mix of online and in-person shopping 

You may find that shopping online allows you to find things more quickly than going to the store and searching for what you need. It’s also easier to compare the price of items of one store online to those of another online. It also makes bulk buying something you know you will need a lot of easier.

Be aware though that online shopping makes it easier to make an impulse purchase, something you should try and avoid.

Our advice is to hit the dollar store first and then look online for anything you can’t find there.

6. Don’t forget about school lunches

A task that so many parents dread. Planning ahead can help save time and money. Find a good reusable lunch bag and/or reusable containers that can hold all the food your child will need and keep it cool/hot if necessary. You’ll have less food waste if it’s stored properly. Sit down with your kids now and set up a meal plan for school lunches that include healthy, tasty and affordable choices.

7. Get ahead of your debt

Too much summer spending can leave us light on cash during the fall months. Don’t lose sight of your other financial commitments and be sure to start saving for the winter months now. And, if your debt is keeping you from setting aside savings or covering all your expenses, speak to a debt help professional or at least look over your debt relief options online.

Dealing with your debt now can put you in a better position to save up in advance for all your kids’ expenses that pop up throughout the year — like birthday parties, extracurricular activities and school pizza lunches.

Flashy ads and one-day-only sales are meant to make you spend. During the school shopping season, stick to your list, avoid debt, stick to your budget and avoid buying out of panic or FOMO.

8. Hunt for student discounts 

It’s back to school for older kids as well. If you child is in, or entering, post-secondary be sure to look out for student discounts on a variety of products, particularly electronics like laptops. 

You can also get student discounts on software packages as well. These savings can take a huge bite out of many of the larger back to school costs for those in post-secondary education. 

There’s also student pricing available for using public transit in a variety of Canadian cities. As well as gym memberships and even discounts from music streaming services. 

It never hurts to ask if somewhere offers a student discount, the savings really add up quickly.

The bottom line

Back to school is an exciting and nerve-racking time for kids and parents alike. It’s easy to get swept up in the frenzy of back-to-school shopping and overspend on things that may not be necessary. By only looking for what you need you can avoid any financial hardship and take the stress out of the season.

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August 17, 2023

8 ways to save money on back-to-school shopping

Back to school shopping can come with a hefty cost but it doesn’t have to. We look at the best ways to find savings when shopping for a new school year.

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