This was originally published on Monday, May 18, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
The cost of back-to-school supplies rises each year. Many of us feel the pressure in July and August as the sales start to appear everywhere. By saving up now and following these tips back to school does not have to be a financial headache.
• Dollar Stores – You can get some great deals at the dollar store. Be careful not to skimp on quality though. Items that get used often, such as binders and backpacks, should be of high quality. Besides, you don’t want to have to keep replacing them throughout the year. That would not be cost effective. Items like pencils, crayons, and paper do not have to be expensive name-brand supplies.
• Growth – Kids grow like weeds and they are always growing out of their clothes. When buying clothing think to get them slightly larger. Some pants are sold un-hemmed so they can be sewn to the length you desire. By folding a few layers into the hem you can adjust the hem for growth throughout the school year. Some pants, shorts, and skirts have adjustments at the waist that can be moved when a child outgrows a size or two.
• Compare prices vs. your time – If you have the time to research tons of sales circulars it may be worth it to shop at several different locations. If you are limited on time, find a store that offers a one-stop shopping experience. The time and gas you save may outweigh the dollars you save going to several different stores.
• Shop alone – We have all experienced it: You walk into a store with your child to buy a few items and by the time you get to the register you have a cart full of things you hadn’t planned to buy. Avoid this. If you are alone you can concentrate on your list without interruptions or impromptu purchases.
• Start early – There will be many sales throughout the summer. Keep your list with you and pick up items when you run errands. If you wait till the last minute you will stress yourself trying to gather supplies from barren shelves and settling for any price you can find.
• Thrift stores/garage sales – I am always amazed at the treasure trove of deals that you can find. Gently used items, such as backpacks, shoes, clothing and school supplies, can be found for extremely reasonable prices.
• School stores – At some schools the parent teacher association usually sells lightly used school uniforms. Before going out and ordering new uniforms stop by your school and see what’s available.
• College students – If you have a student heading off to college don’t forget to factor in not just school supplies but textbooks and maybe even furnishings for dorm-room living. Textbooks are very expensive. Most campus stores sell used books or have a bulletin board filled with ads from students selling used books and other items. Look online with Amazon and eBay. They usually sell books lower in price than the campus bookstore. If you are shopping online, do so in a timely fashion so that the books arrive before the school year starts. Before buying your textbooks, confirm which edition is needed.
• Set limits – Lastly and most importantly, set a limit to how much you want to spend on back to school. Buying supplies should not break your budget. The more costly items such as tuition can also be negotiated. Ask your child’s school if they offer payment plans or discounts for paying in advance.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at email@example.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.