Managing Back to School Expenses

< Back to Money Minute

August is already here and for those of us that have children that means its Back To School time!
For some of us, our childcare costs will go down dramatically, YAY! For others…well, we will soon miss the pleasure of our perfect, well-mannered, tidy children’s company. Whether you’re saving on childcare, food costs or entertainment for stay home kids, we will all be sharing the added expenses of going back to school shopping. Here are some tips to help you make it through back-to-school season with money left in your pocket:
First, determine what you need; supplies, clothing, shoes, school fees, lunches, etc.
You can normally count on a supply list from your child’s school. Depending on the school and grade of your child, these items can vary greatly. Normally the older your child is the more expensive the supplies. You will want to check weekly ads, look for coupons, check what supplies you have left from last year that can be used, and compare prices from a few stores. If buying on-line, check for promo codes, know if there is a minimum purchase amount to ship for free or see if they offer free ship-to-store for pick up at your local store.
*I did an initial price assessment at one of my common Back-To-School go-to spots for a standard fourth graders supply list to get an ideal of what to expect for “out of pocket” costs*

Supply List

  • 24-count box of sharpened #2 pencils (No mechanical pencils)
    (compare prices with your local                                            = $ 4.00
  • 2 boxes of 24 count crayons                                    = $ 1.00
  • 1 box of washable markers                                     = $ 3.77
  • 1 large durable pencil pouch—no plastic boxes = $ 3.16
  • 1 pair of scissors                                                        = $ 0.99
  • 3 white glue sticks                                                      = $ 2.97
  • 2 two-pocket folders with prongs                          = $ 4.58
  • 2 lined composition marble notebook                  = $ 4.78
  • 1 steno pad                                                                 = $ 1.59
  • 5 wide-rule spiral notebooks
    —green, blue, yellow, 2 red                                    =  $ 0.85
  • Back Pack Average                                                     = $ 18.00
  • Lunch Box Average                                                    = $ 15.00
  • Class Fee Average                                                      = $ 25.00
  • Tax 6%                                                                          = $ 5.14

                              Total $ 90.83



(This will depend on your schools dress code, and if uniforms are required or not.)
Some people try to buy just what is needed to get started. However, buying later may end up costing more as school clothes are on sale now and it may be harder to find uniforms later in the year. If at all possible, I encourage buying now for the whole year, all weather. It not only saves you money, but will save you time later. In addition, finding a 2 pack or 4 pack bundle deals will be less expensive than buying items individually, and it is more difficult to find these deals later in the year.

  • Short Sleeve Polo Shirt
    Average 4 Pack                                            = $ 16.44 (suggest 2) = $ 32.88
  • Long Sleeve Polo Shirt
    Average 4 pack                                            = $ 23.88 (suggest 2) = $ 47.76
  • Uniform Pants
    Average 2 pack                                            = $ 17.00 (suggest 5) = $ 85.00
  • Uniform Shorts
    Average 2 pack                                            = $ 16.00 (suggest 5) = $ 80.00
  • Shoes Average = $ 145.00
  • Tax 6% = $ 23.44

                          Total $ 414.08

Total Estimated Costs = $ 504.91

Lastly, plan your trip or buy online.
Tips to consider…

  • If going to the store direct, I encourage you not take your child with you. This can lead to buying unnecessary or more expensive items. Also, if you are checking prices on-line before shopping at your local store, keep in mind that items in the store may be priced differently, so check the weekly ad for in store prices and to ensure items are available in your local store.
  • If buying on-line, make sure you will receive the items well in advance in case anything needs to be returned. You will also want to make sure you understand the return policy; can you return them to your local store or do you have to ship them back? This could impact when you will get the item…which could be after school starts.
  • Find out if your community has a tax-free shopping day or weekend and plan to make any big purchases during that time period:

Knowing what your actual cost will be, and knowing you have the absolute best prices, how does this look in your budget? Will you have the ability to buy these things with cash and not impact your other bills this month? Putting these items on a credit card without the ability to pay off the balance right away will end up costing you even more.
If you charge the $504.91 to a credit card with a typical department store annual percentage rate of 21%, the minimum payment would be about $25.00 a month.
Paying the minimum payment only, it will take you 29 months to pay off the balance.
It will also cost an extra $ 133.09 worth of interest. Your $504.91 costs just increased to $638.00.
Wow! All your work to compare and save just got wasted, wouldn’t you say?
Planning ahead for next year…
The best way to prepare for Back to School costs is to plan ahead and save. Knowing now that you will likely need at least $505.00 next year; starting in September 2016 begin setting aside (saving) about $ 42.00 a month just for 2017 Back to School expenses. This will help make sure you can afford your normal bills, continue to save, and have the peace of mind that your child will have all they need to start a brand new successful year.
Having a budget, starting to save, continuing to save, learning to plan ahead…these are all things that we have to do, or learn to do as adults. Not doing so will make achieving your goals very difficult, whatever they may be. Let Apprisen help you begin or continue this journey. Your finances change as your life does.  May I suggest you start with our free Financial Stress Test.

< Previous Next >