By Jillian Taylor-Mancusi
With a new school season right around the corner, millions of Canadians are gearing up for back to school shopping. For some households, this can add up to a pretty hefty bill. One recent survey from Visa reported that the average Canadian household with school-aged children will spend over $400 on back to school shopping. Many of these expenses will be charged to credit cards.
Luckily, you don’t have to overspend or max out your credit cards just because school is starting. Here are a few no-fail tips to keep your spending in check and avoid the massive debt that binging on back to school shopping can bring:
Create—and stick—to a budget.
The first thing you should do is set a budget. Find out how much you can realistically afford to spend on back to school items. This will take a little planning on your part. Decide what you need on the first week of school and what you don’t. Some things, like fall clothes, are not urgent purchases and can wait longer than pencils and markers.
While making your budget is easy, the hard part is sticking to it. Using cash to pay for school supplies instead of a debit or credit card is one way to help ensure you don’t overspend.
Make a list.
A list is an invaluable tool for back to school shopping and, when followed, will keep you from binging on school supplies. Start by finding out what items are mandatory and what aren’t. The lists provided by schools often include items your child won’t necessarily need, like tissues or hand sanitizer, or that the classroom already provides, like crayons or scissors.
A list will also help you avoid wasting money on unnecessary purchases. Things like scented markers, locker décor, and designer notebooks can add up quickly and usually aren’t needed.
Find out what you already have.
Despite what many retailers would like you to believe, you don’t need brand new school supplies each year. As long as they are still intact and working, the backpacks, calculators, and pens and pencils your kids used last year can be reused.
Always shop sales.
With so many back to school sales, there is no reason to pay full price for anything. Keep an eye on weekly ads, and sign up for email alerts so you can know when back to school sales begin. If you have a smartphone, apps like Zoomingo and Retail Me Not will locate sales in your area.
You can also save time and gas by finding a retailer that will price match or honor competitor coupons and do your shopping there.
Finally, don’t wait until the week (or night!) before school starts to go shopping. It’s much easier on your budget if you spread out your shopping over several paydays instead of waiting until the last minute.
Back to school shopping doesn’t need to break the bank. With a budget, a list, and a little planning, you can avoid overspending on unnecessary items and save money in the process.
How do you save money on back to school shopping? Please share your tips.