Back to School Doesn’t Have to Break the BankThursday, July 23, 2009
Back to school shopping is underway, and getting all the back-to-school necessities, from shoes and clothes to supplies and electronic equipment isn't cheap. According to the National Retail Federation, families will spend $548.72 on back to school purchases, a decline of 7.7 percent over the $597.74 last year.
"Challenging economic times have changed the face of back-to-school shopping this year," said Suzanne Boas, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Greater Atlanta, Inc. "Families are struggling to get kids ready for school without putting a further strain on the family budget."
CCCS offers tips to help make back-to-school shopping a little easier this year.
Make a budget and stick to it
Decide how much you will spend on school supplies ahead of time and, if possible, set aside the cash to avoid overspending. Use school shopping as an opportunity to teach your child about making choices by giving them a set spending amount to purchase some of the items they will need. They will learn that if they want the special folders, they may need to forego the fancy markers.
Begin with a list of all back-to-school needs and expenses including supplies, equipment, clothing, and fees for sports, music and science labs. Next, check around the house for what your family already owns. Look for and reuse calculators, rulers, pencil sharpeners and anything else that is still in working condition. Last year's backpack may be just what is needed to start the new school year. In fact, wait just a few weeks after school starts and many backpacks and other accessories will be on sale for a fraction of the original price. Most students will not need entirely new wardrobes--just fill in the gaps with a few new outfits or uniform pieces. Well-maintained musical instruments and sports equipment are considerably less expensive than new ones.
Plan a clothing swap
Talk with friends and neighbors about having a clothing swap--or look for one already planned in your area. This is a great way to get rid of school clothes that no longer fit and get a whole new wardrobe for this year. Find some great tips on how to get started at www.ehow.com.
Take advantage of sales tax holidays
This year, parents can enjoy tax-free shopping for many school supplies. From July 30 through August 2, Georgia shoppers will not pay sales tax on the following back to school items: Clothing with a sales price of $100 or less, school supplies and books with a sales price of $20 or less, and computers or other electronic equipment with a sales price of $1,500 or less. This can help your back to school budget go a little further.
Plan your shopping
With gas prices on the rise again, it may not pay to go to several stores to save a few cents on school supplies. Check the newspaper and online ads and map out your shopping plan to maximize you savings and stay within your budget.
Shop at school
Many schools offer pre-packaged school supplies for students. Often coordinated by the PTA as a fundraiser, families can purchase supply packs from the school at costs comparable to what you would pay at a retailer. You will save time and gas by not having to shop and your child's supplies will be waiting for them on the first day of school.
Shop online and at discount retailers
Several national office supply stores are offering good online prices for school supplies. Watch for dollars off coupons to save even more. Look for free or inexpensive delivery. Outlet stores, big box stores and discount chains can save you money on uniforms and other school supplies. Check out your neighborhood consignment shops and thrift stores too. Some have designated space for school uniforms and you may get some great bargains.
"Advanced planning, careful shopping and a little research can go a long way in helping you stay within your budget, added Boas.