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8 Ideas for Surviving Back-to-School Shopping (Without Taking out a Second Mortgage)

Do you have children heading back to school? Most families will spend a couple of hundred dollars on each child. If you have a college freshman, you may spend several hundred dollars.

According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school and back-to-college spending ranks as the second biggest shopping season for retailers after the winter holidays.

How can you rein in back-to-school costs? Consider these eight ideas:

1. Shop your drawers and cupboards. Chances are you have many unused or gently used supplies that are perfectly good.

2. Make a list. After you have compiled the supplies you already have on hand, craft a list of what else is needed. If your school sends a supply list, use that as a guide. The trick to reining in costs is not to stray. Stick to your list.

3. Set a spending limit. Let your children know the limit in advance of shopping. Parents can be easily swayed by their children’s choices and wants, and end up spending more than they planned. Your child can help make decisions on which items are the most important and which can be skipped.

4. Hand over the money. Give your child the total amount you are going to spend in cash. This is a great financial planning lesson. There is only a finite amount of money, so your student will need to figure out how to purchase everything she needs with the amount of money she has available. This is will help her figure out what is most important.

5. Have the kids contribute. This is another great lesson in financial literacy. Your child would be responsible for using his own money to purchase certain items, such as paper, notebooks, erasers and other basic supplies. You can help him set a budget and determine priorities.

6. Focus on the big items. If your student needs more expensive items, such as a computer or bedding for a dorm room, put your energy into finding the best deal for those items. Saving fifty cents on pencils is not as significant as saving a couple hundred dollars on a computer.

7. Contact roommates. College students can coordinate their dorm room furnishings with their roommates. One person can bring the refrigerator, the other the TV. Look for used items.

8. Follow your favorite stores on social media. This works especially well for clothing. Choose three or four stores and follow them on Facebook or Twitter to get advance notice of sales and coupons.


Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be a budget buster. Approach it with a plan, you’ll be able to control the cost.


This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.