Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to School on a Budget

It's that time of year again! For some, it's the best time of year, for others, it's the most dreaded. I guess it all depends on if you're a parent, student, or teacher, or any combination of the three. This year, I am once again a student, and shopping for school supplies this year really stressed me out because I did not want to spend money on anything.

Here's a few tips on going back to school on a budget that I have learned myself, and some I learned from my friend, the internet.

- Look at how many pens and pencils you have in your house, do you really need to buy a whole new box of either? Probably not. I think I only use 3 a year, and I know I've got way more than that lying around. The same thing goes for other items on the supply list. You can always buy more if you run out, but there's no point in having 5 half used bottles of glue around. And I know I personally have about 20 post it note pads. Lesson learned there.
- You can reuse old notebooks. A lot of times you don't finish them off before the end of the year and there's tons of pages left. Figure out either a hard copy filing system or scan the pages into PDF format to save on your computer, and use the rest of the notebook for something else. Same thing goes with old binders, or you can always condense binders together and reuse the ones that are now empty.
- Use your over-sized Lindsay Lohan purse as your backpack. What else do you carry in there? You can also buy those smaller sized notebooks if you're worried about where you're going to keep the rest of that stuff.
- Old notebook paper hole punched is now looseleaf paper
- Give your old computer some maintenance before the year starts and you may save on having to buy a new one (this is tricky because I have a husband who works in IT and knows how to fix things while going to a place like Geek Squad or other retailers will cost you money, and sometimes a lot of money. But he's gotten my computer to last at least an extra 2 years, knock on wood longer, just by spending $30 on replacing little things here and there and giving it a good clean up once in awhile)
- An obvious one, shop the sales and use coupons. You can always find them online if you don't have any to clip. There's also the $1 store.
- Did you know Bed Bath and Beyond takes expired coupons? Did you also know that you can give them more than one coupon in a purchase?
- Know your printing paper limits at school (if you can plan out when to print papers or other long things, that will save you $$), also know this is something you can protest and change (as I have seen many times at all the schools I've gone to)
- Get textbooks from other places besides the school store, sometimes you can even get one edition older (but never more) and still get an almost identical version of the same book (check with your professor first, or just ask a friend to share if there's something important in one chapter you miss). Amazon and tend to work the best for me, but there are other websites you can look into as well. And know the full price of the book and what online shipping costs ahead of time so you can better compare.
- Use student (see older entry about this)
- Don't buy things in the school bookstore if you can help it (EVERYTHING is more expensive there), although there are also times when school stores offer really good package discounts.
- Your child doesn't need the best quality, most expensive everything, but some things are important for them to pick out (like which backpack, or binder) since that is their way to express their personality. That being said, if what they want is way too expensive, you can direct them to the cheaper stuff. And it's always possible to decorate with patches, stickers, etc. This article also suggested that this is a good time to teach your child about budgeting.
- When shopping for new clothes, set a budget that is realistic and know where to go to get as many items as possible that fit in that budget. My mother always had the same budget for us, but when you're 6 and when you're 12 things don't cost the same. And I honestly think it did the exact opposite as far as teaching me to budget went because I often had to choose between things I knew I needed. Sneakers are double the price, and even jeans at cheaper places sky rocket in costs. Take them to stores like H&M that have trendy kid clothes for cheaper prices, or Khol's, Marshall's, etc. where you can get everything in one store at a discount. Khol's is especially good for this because of their insane amounts of coupons and their clearance section cannot be beat. Depending on the age/gender, this is a good time to let them shop as well, of course while keeping them in that budget. Target and Walmart are also good because you can do all your shopping in one store, meaning you need to travel less, are tempted less, and if you have a coupon or can get a discount with a credit card, it'll go even further.
- There are lots of organizations that want to help your child succeed. You can do searches to find local and national charities that will help pay or give away supplies if you simply can't afford to buy everything.

Here's a really good budget calculator I found that might also help.

Shine and Quizzle had a really good tip on how to offset some of the costs of going back to school:
- "Remember all those clothes you took out of your child’s closet because they don’t fit her anymore? Guess what? They probably fit someone else’s kid. Rather than donating them or packing them into your storage closet, take them to a consignment shop and see if you can sell any of them. A consignment shop will sell the clothes for you and give you a portion of the proceeds. By reselling some of your child’s old clothes, you can recoup some of the money you spent buying new ones. A garage sale can help with this too." And I'm guessing you can get rid of a lot of other junk as well.

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