Back-to-School Budgeting: How to Shop for a Successful School Year on a Budget
educating-myself | Read Time: 3 minutes
By Vernita Dorsey | Published: August 2022
Back to school season is in full swing, but with high inflation and rising interest rates, purchasing the supplies needed to set your student up for success is likely to stretch budgets a bit thinner this year.
A recent WSFS survey found that 44% of Greater Philadelphia and Delaware region respondents are not confident they can keep pace with inflation’s impact on goods and services, which could affect many consumers’ ability to buy the usual school supplies needed this year.
Here are tips to help shop for a successful school year without breaking the bank.
Needs vs. Wants
Purchasing all of the supplies needed to set your student up for success can quickly add up and put a dent in your budget.
Before you start your shopping this year, start by assessing what you already have on hand and what is still needed. While it is nice to send your student back with brand new materials for the start of the year, if your budget is tight, now is the time to only purchase the needed items versus those that are just wanted.
Look for ways to save such as reusing a backpack or lunchbox from prior years if your student hasn’t grown out of them, and check for other supplies that may be leftover from last year as well. If your student has lightly used notebooks or pens and pencils from last year, you can save some money for the beginning of the schoolyear by having them recycle, repurpose and reuse those items.
After you have a handle on the items you already have, make a list of the essentials still needed and start building your budget.
Set a Budget and Stick to It
Once you’ve built a budget for how much you can afford to spend, it is time to start shopping.
Search for sales and deals, whether in-person or online, before making your purchases to see where you can find some cost savings. With gas prices still high, it is also a good idea to crunch the numbers this year to compare the costs of shipping and handling versus the travel otherwise required to purchase your needed items.
Some states, including New Jersey, offer a temporary sales tax holiday for eligible school supply purchases made during select windows in time, which can provide an opportunity for added savings.
While students love backpacks and other supplies with superheroes and characters on them, they tend to be a bit pricier, and if your budget is tight, this may be the year to go with a plainer design. If you find yourself unable to purchase all the items needed for your student, consider contacting local nonprofits and religious organizations in your area, as many run school supply drives each year that could help out.
Get Your Children Involved
Financial education is a topic that is often not covered in many schools as a result of already tight school curriculums and budgets. The recent WSFS survey found that 52% of regional respondents cited their parents or guardians as the source for where they learned money management skills, and back to school shopping can provide a great opportunity for added financial lessons.
Start by obtaining the supply list from your child’s school, in order to determine what items are needed and approved. Once you have your budget set, let your student know how much is available to spend on school supplies and have them help pick the items to see if they’re able to stay within the allotted amount. If an item your child wants is out of your budget but they receive an allowance, use this as a chance to teach the value of saving and budgeting by encouraging them to save up their money until they can afford it.
Budgeting and saving are lifelong skills, and are of particular importance when in times of high inflation like the present. If you feel you need more assistance with increasing your own financial skills, consider talking to your banker to help put a plan in place or utilizing the abundance of educational content available online, including interactive budgeting tools.
About the Author – Vernita Dorsey
Vernita Dorsey is Senior Vice President, Director of Community Strategy at WSFS Bank. She has more than 38 years of experience as a community banker and has actively served her community throughout her career.
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