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Back-to-school shopping tips for post-secondary students

By ATB Financial 27 June 2020 3 min read

While it may seem like summer just began, the beginning of the next school year may already be on your mind. Planning for next semester may feel a little different from previous years as we adjust to this ‘new normal’, especially if you have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19 this spring and summer. We have compiled some back-to-school shopping tips that will help you feel prepared for the fall semester no matter what your budget is.

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

First off, know your budget.

Determine how much you can comfortably spend using this monthly budget worksheet. Back-to-school shopping doesn't need to cost a small fortune but it can get pricey if you’re not careful. Once you’ve determined how much you can afford to spend, write it down as a reminder to stay focused on buying only what you need (no impulse buying). Also, be sure to know what materials are required for your courses. Books and other course materials (such as software subscriptions) can be a significant expense and you’ll need to budget for it.

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 your belongings to determine what still fits and what new items are needed. Also, take stock of last year's supplies, because chances are you still have notebooks, calculators, binders and more that you can use again.

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, for example textbooks or subscriptions. Lower priority items can be purchased later on, throughout the year, which makes the expense more manageable.

Shopping for school supplies

When it comes to school supplies, always shop around. Whether it be for textbooks, laptops or just basic supplies - deals are everywhere this time of year and some merchants may be offering lower prices than others. For example, publishing companies sometimes sell digital versions of textbooks for a portion of the price of a hardcover version or you can try purchasing your books second hand.

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 stay safe, and ultimately you’ll only buy what you need without being distracted by other items at the store.

Tip #3: Bigger ticket items like technology tend to last more than one school year. When you go to purchase items like this, think about your needs over the next few years. What type of functionality will you need?

Creating the back-to-school wardrobe

Despite what advertising seems to suggest, nobody needs a whole new wardrobe every September, especially if classes are online. Don’t feel pressured to buy everything right now. If you are looking to save money over the long-run, think about creating a capsule wardrobe and only selecting a few items this summer that can be used to refresh existing outfits.

If you do decide to pick up a few items, make sure to shop the sales—summer clothes can be layered in cooler weather. Many consignment shops have created online store fronts that are great for purchasing gently-used items that can be coordinated well to create outfits.

Tip #4: If brand names are important to you, 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 as well.

There are plenty of other expenses you may want to include in your back-to-school budget, like tuition, cell phone plans, transit passes, on-campus dining and extra-curricular activity fees. However you put your budget together, just remember to prioritize and stick to it! And don’t forget to try and save for the future whenever possible.

Need a little help with budgeting?

Give us a call at 1-800-332-8383 or complete this monthly budgeting worksheet. 

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