My grandson will be in 1st grade this year. He’s got his backpack, crayons, glue sticks, scissors, pencils and clothes ready to go. As he showed me all his back-to-school goodies, I couldn’t help but worry how much it cost my daughter, a single mom. Despite inflation pushing prices up, she assured me she didn’t break her budget. By being resourceful and using simple hacks to control costs, she actually saved money while also teaching her son the value of recycling, reusing and sticking to a budget.
She says she learned how to be financially practical and creative from me — I was also a single mom who kept to a strict budget — but she has taken it to a new level using today’s technology and social groups to find ways to save.
I believe we can all learn from each other, so I’ve gathered some tips from my daughter and from my own research, so you can enjoy back-to-school savings, too.
3 Thrifty Ways to Save on School Supplies and Clothes
1. Join thrift groups on social media.
Parents today are in some fun and smart community groups that give them opportunities to swap their children’s outgrown outfits and items for gently used, new-to-them pieces. Many times, you can find these “swap and shop” groups on social media — they’re like a modern-day take on yard sales and consignment stores.
They work like this:
On Facebook, search for local thrift or swap groups. Most of the time these are private groups, and you’ll need to ask to join. Once you’re in, you can post that you’re searching for clothes in certain sizes or that you’re looking for other children’s items. Members of the group then start responding to you with offers of free or very reasonably priced items (up to 75 percent less than what they are in a store!). I’ve seen my daughter get almost-new items for my grandchildren that cost little to nothing!
Recently, I read an article from a Fox News affiliate titled “Back-to-School Budget Survival Guide: How Moms and Dads Can Save Time and Money.” One of the parents who was interviewed said her kids’ school has a Facebook group where parents can swap clothing and other items. I think that’s a great place to look for one, but you can also search for and join city and neighborhood thrift groups.
You can even create your own thrift group to swap and sell with friends and family members. If you choose to go this route, you can send and accept payments digitally through Zelle®. It’s an easy, fast and safe way to send and receive money with friends, family and others you trust.
When it comes to school supplies, an article from Reader’s Digest titled “18 Shopping Secrets Teachers Use When Buying Back-to-School Supplies” reported that teachers also use Facebook groups to swap extra items. They encourage parents to do the same. So, if you have a couple of extra boxes of pencils or a few unopened packs of erasers, you could start a Facebook group with other parents from your school to swap them out for something you need, like whiteboard markers or glue sticks!
One last added bonus of swapping and second-hand shopping:
You teach your children to embrace the values of recycling, reusing and saving, not to mention it can feel like a fun adventure searching for and finding what you need!
2. Create a list of what you need to help you budget.
Around mid-July, school supplies start to hit stores. One of the best things you can do is create and keep a list of the items that are required. Go through the aisles, or even go to the store’s website, and see how much each item costs, tally them up and you have a start to your school supply budget.
If your child needs new clothes, a backpack or a lunchbox, sit down with them and make a list of those types of needed items, estimate how much they cost and add those expenses to your budget, too.
Now, use these three tips to cut back:
a. Take an inventory of what you already have at home.
If you think about it, as parents or even grandparents, we are always buying supplies — pencils, pens, post-it notes, etc. More often than not, we don’t ever buy just one of something, we buy extra to stockpile. Then, if you’re like me, you sometimes forget you bought them or where you stored them, so you buy more.
Search your storage areas at home and take inventory of the supplies you find. Mark what you already have off the school supply list and subtract that amount from your budget.
b. Sign up for deals.
Sometimes when you’re shopping at an online store for the first time, you might get a special discount on your first purchase — I’ve seen discounts from 10 to 40 percent off. It might be worth it, but make sure you can get free shipping, too, as shipping can often cost quite a bit of money.
Also, be sure you sign up for emails from your favorite stores, as they often include discounts. These types of cost-savings can really help you stay within your budget.
c. Shop local.
Local merchants often have special deals for students in their communities. Be on the lookout and shop those stores!
3. Make it a family/friend affair.
Many of the articles I read about school shopping say to make it a family affair, and I couldn’t agree more.
Like I mentioned before, grandparents or, let’s say Aunt Susie, may have extra supplies sitting around or even extra funds to help you pay for what your child needs. Provide them with the list. They may say, ‘Hey! I’ve got a box of pencils in my junk drawer!” or they may even be super happy to go shopping with you and take some of the financial burden off you — I know I love to help my daughter when I can!
One Final Tip: Open a Savings Account
There will always be expected events you’ll need money for, like back-to-school shopping, but there will also always be unexpected events. It’s good to have a savings account, so you’ll be ready for both.
At Bank of Utah, we are all too happy to help you find a savings account to meet your needs. We even have a savings account just for children, to get them started on a good financial path.
I love working at the Bank and helping customers with all of their needs — big and small. We have so many fun and friendly faces at all of our Bank of Utah locations, so please reach out.
Joanie Michel is branch manager for Bank of Utah’s St. George branch.