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Four tips for back-to-school shopping on a budget

By ATB Financial 9 August 2018 3 min read

Summer may still be in full swing, but the return to busy school days is just around the corner. And while kids are still focused on the next play date or week of summer camp, parents, it’s time to start thinking about the back-to-school shopping list. What do they need, what do they want, and what’s much will it cost?

Here are a few tips to help you save big this September.


First off, know your budget.

Determine how much you can comfortably spend. Back-to-school shopping doesn't need to cost a small fortune but it can get pricey if you’re not careful. So once you’ve decided how much you’re willing to spend, we’ve got a few smart tips that can help keep it all under control.

Tip #1: Keep your budget itemized and organized. Find room in your monthly budget to pay for the school supplies you need right now, and plan ahead for those things you can purchase next month or later in the year. Avoid using a credit card, unless you know you can pay it all off before your next payment is due.


Take inventory and write a list.

This is the perfect time to sort through the kids’ closets to determine what still fits and what new items are needed. Also, take stock of school and craft supplies, because chances are they’ve still got pencils, tape, scissors and more that they can use again.

Now make a list for each child itemizing what they need, including clothing sizes. If your school charges a fee for supplies and does the shopping for you, be sure to include that school fee in your overall budget.

Tip #2: Number the items on each list in order of priority. The higher priority items are things they need for the start of the school year. Lower priority items can be purchased later on, throughout the year, which makes the expense more manageable. It’s also a great opportunity to talk to young children about needs vs wants.


Shopping for school supplies

Unless brand names are requested, look for generic options where you can to save money. Shop around—deals are everywhere this time of year. All your regular big box stores, and even your local grocery store, may have stationery supplies on sale for back-to-school.

And be sure to check online for deals—just watch for currency exchanges or shipping charges that may bring the price back up. Shopping online also allows you to save time, and ultimately you’ll only buy what your kids need without them being enticed by shiny new items at the store.

Tip #3: Bigger ticket items like backpacks, binders and lunch boxes tend to last more than one school year. When you need to buy them, avoid cartoon themes the kids might reject the following year. Who knows when Minecraft will no longer be the trendy thing? You can also buy a generic bag in their favourite colour and have them personalize it with iron-on badges or pins.


Creating the back-to-school wardrobe

Despite what advertising seems to suggest, nobody needs a whole new wardrobe every September. Don't feel pressured to buy everything right now. Shop the clearance racks—summer clothes can be layered in cooler weather. Choose a few key items to buy and update existing outfits with new accessories. Check out thrift stores and kids’ consignment shops for gently-used stuff, and choose items that coordinate well to create outfits.

Tip #4: If brand names are important to your kids, choose a key piece or two to mix in with the generic brands so you're not blowing your budget on expensive brands. Second hand and consignment stores often have quality brand name finds for kids as well.

There are plenty of other expenses you may want to include in your back-to-school budget, like general school fees, cell phone plans, transit passes, lunches and extra-curricular activity fees. However you put your budget together, just remember to prioritize and stick to it!


Need a little help with budgeting?

Give us a call at 1-800-332-8383 or check out ATB TrackIt, our online money management tool.​​

Need help?

Our Client Care team will be happy to assist.