back-to-school

Yet another summer has flown by, and a new school year is right around the corner. As kids look forward to new beginnings, parents brace themselves for the costly back-to-school shopping trips.

Backpacks, school supplies, electronics and other must-haves can easily drain your bank account if you don’t shop wisely. Thankfully, by avoiding a few simple back-to-school shopping blunders, you can keep more green in your pocket.

Mistake No. 1: Shopping Without a Detailed Budget

create-a-budget

You must have a budget to control your back-to-school spending. If you shop without one you’re bound to go overboard. But don’t worry; creating a budget only takes a few minutes.

First, write down your total spending limit. Then make subcategories such as clothes, books, supplies, etc. Assign spending limits to each of your smaller categories, and stick to them. If you overspend in one category while shopping, reduce your allowance in another area to compensate.

Not sure if you have the willpower to stay within the confines of a budget?

The envelope system is an excellent way to hold yourself accountable. Simply label envelopes with your budget categories, and fill them with cash. Seeing your cash slowly deplete as you shop will deter you from overspending. When the cash runs out you’ll know it’s time to end your trip.

Mistake No. 2: Skipping the Shopping List

Your mission while back-to-school shopping is to buy what you need – nothing more, nothing less. Succeeding in your mission requires a thorough shopping list.

Think about it, if you go straight to the store without an action plan there’s a greater chance you’ll buy unnecessary things.

The key to an effective shopping list is to dig through what you already have. Rummage through junk drawers for school supplies. Check through closets to tally up the clothes you have and what you need.

Look through backpacks to see if anything can be salvaged for the upcoming year. You can save a great deal of money by reusing old supplies you have laying around the house.

Mistake No. 3: Buying Wants Instead of Needs

Let’s face it. Stores are chock-full of temptation.

You’ll probably want to buy something that’s not on your list. When you feel the urge to put something extra in your cart, take a moment to consider your needs versus wants.

When I feel the urge to overspend, I'll consider my needs before my wants. Click To Tweet

Needs are the bare necessities from your shopping list or things you must buy for the school year. On the other hand, wants are things you can go without.

Buying too many wants is a sign you’re impulse spending, so focus on the essentials and try to involve the whole family. If kids pick up items that aren’t on your list, explain the difference between needs and wants and how it impacts what you purchase.

If you have room in your budget for some non-essentials only buy valuable items that serve a purpose. Otherwise, keep the extra cash in your pocket for another day.

Mistake No. 4: Shying Away From Negotiation

It never hurts to ask for a discount. Of course, you won’t have much luck negotiating down the price of No. 2 pencils, save-on-electronics
but you can potentially save on products like computers. Before negotiating, check online to see what the average market price is for the products you need.

If you find a deal, take the evidence to your local electronics stores and ask them to match it. You may find some retail prices are set-in-stone, but even in that circumstance there are other opportunities for savings. Ask to have accessories such as chargers, cables or cases included to sweeten the deal.

Mistake No. 5: Waiting Until the Last Minute to Shop 

Deal hunting and negotiating takes time, so don’t procrastinate. Some bargains you’ll find online, and you’ll have to wait for them to ship. Other deals you’ll find after hopping around from store to store.

Always give yourself enough time to snoop for discounts and coupons in case you have to do extra digging. If you wait until crunch time to shop, you may be less compelled to put your detective hat on to hunt for savings.

There is one important caveat: You may benefit from making certain purchases later in the month or after the back-to-school rush ends. For example, sometimes electronics are marked down toward the end of the month. Either way, plan out your savings strategy in advance to score deals.

At the end of the day, there’s no doubt back-to-school expenses can be costly. But if you attack the major annual shopping trip with a budget and a plan, you’ll find it’s possible to save yourself money.

This post by Tiffany “The Budgetnista”, originally appeared on U.S. News.

Girl on laptop photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net and David Castillo Dominici

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