8 Back-to-School Budgeting Tips

Published August 2021
Kids walking to school with Mom

As summer ends, it’s time for back-to-school shopping. Start by defining a budget, and involve your kids in the budgeting and shopping process.

Key Points:

  • Before you start shopping for school supplies, establish your needs and priorities.
  • Create a realistic back-to-school budget.
  • Do not forego quality for the savings.
  • Involve your kids in budgeting and shopping.

Although school hasn’t started yet, education-related expenses are already looming. If you are on a budget (as you should be), you can’t ignore back-to-school expenses.

Because school happens every year and starts at about the same time, you can factor back-to-school shopping into your budget as a periodic expense.

Regardless of the school supply needs of your child, August is the time to get back-to-school shopping out of the way. During the last summer month, retailers offer sales on many of the items your kids will need. If you have a sound plan, you can take advantage of tax-free weekends and get your shopping done for much less.

So, where do you start?

Back to School Budgeting Tips

1. Establish Your Needs and Prioritize Them

Before you create a back-to-school budget, you have to know what you want to buy and what the most pressing items are. Ideally, you want to cover everything, but you don’t want to find yourself unable to buy the essential items because you splurged on something less important.

2. Set Up a Back-to-School Budget

Once you know what you need and you have set your priorities, you can create a budget. You can apply the simplest budgeting tips and principles to it. If you don’t know how to budget, look up some tools or budgeting tips online.

(We’ve got you covered. Download this free template to do your monthly budget.)


Set up separate budget categories for one-time expenses, such as some supply items, and school-related recurring expenses such as extracurricular activity fees, etc.

Make sure that your budget is realistic and that you involve your kids in setting it up. If they have savings they can contribute to the effort, let them pitch in. They can learn a valuable lesson concerning the costs involved with their education this way.

3. See What You Can Reuse from Previous Years

At the end of the school year, your kids bring home their spent and leftover supplies. You can reuse the supplies that still fit the purpose. Go through the kids’ wardrobes and see if they have any school-related clothing that still fits them.

Do not cut corners in this respect, however. You don’t want to send your little scholars into the “line of fire” in ill-fitting outfits.

4. Spread Out Your Back-to-School Shopping

Although most budgeting tips tell you to get your shopping out of the way in August, it may make sense to spread out your item acquisitions over several months if you are living on a tight budget. You may want to get the supplies such as pencils, notebooks, highlighters, binders, etc., in one fell swoop. Clothing-wise, considering the rate of growth of children, this may not make as much sense.

Get an item now. Buy one a month later, depending on when you can get an attractive deal.

5. Go for Quality

You can determine the value of your purchase by matching the quality of the item you buy against its price. You should never leave quality out of this equation.

Some cheap items work fine and fulfill their purpose with flying colors. Some fall apart, however, and if you have to replace something because it broke, you will hardly save any money on it.

Quality items serve their purpose better, and with a bit of luck, you can even have one child hand them down to another for added savings.

6. Consider Buying Used

Quality supplies such as sturdy backpacks can easily outlast a single season. Getting used supplies makes sense in some cases. Although buying used supplies can save you money, you should not force your child to sport equipment that he/she does not like just to save a dollar or two. The social dynamics of schools are intricate and difficult to navigate for youngsters. Don’t make life even harder for them.

7. Use Coupons and Cash in on Your State’s Tax-Free Weekend

By shopping for school supplies, clothing, shoes, and some electronics on your State’s tax-free weekend, you can save money on the sales tax.

Using coupons can save you some extra cash as well. Bear in mind, however, that coupons may not always give you the best deals.

8. Involve Your Kids in Back-to-School Shopping and Teach Them How to Budget

Taking your children with you on your back-to-school shopping trips makes sense for a couple of reasons.

1. You want their input when buying the supplies, clothes, backpacks, and shoes that they will use. Even if you can’t afford to buy everything they may want, you will teach them the power of compromise.

2. Seeing how you shop will allow them to see budgeting in action. Thus, they will pick up healthy financial habits.

Try not to run up credit card debt with your back-to-school shopping. If you’re already indebted and struggling to pay your credit card bills, seek credit card debt relief as soon as possible.

Get a free savings estimate when you call 866-481-1597 to speak to a Certified Debt Specialist.



Topics: Saving Money