Back-to-school time is second only to Christmas when it comes to the level of shopping activity among consumers. The weeks before school starts are also some of the most stressful times for parents of school-age children, and for a good reason.
Prices of school supplies have increased faster than salaries have. Furthermore, parents are increasingly forced to foot the bill when it comes to items needed in their education. Parents raising preschoolers may need to buy essentials such as paper, crayons, scissors, glue and pencils, among others.
Buying supplies for one child may be expensive; imagine buying for several kids.
Here are a few tips on shopping for your school-going children, whether you are buying school books, stationery or even sports uniforms.
1. Inquire with the school
Schools sometimes release an official checklist of necessary school supplies during enrolment. Whether or not your children’s school does this, before going on a shopping spree, check what items your child’s school requires. This is especially true when it comes to big-ticket items such as reference textbooks, specialized calculators, tablets or personal computers or laptops.
By checking with the school first, you can get tips on where to buy school supplies at lower prices or if certain materials can be shared if you have several kids attending the same school. In the case of textbooks, perhaps you can get away with buying an older edition or a used copy of the latest edition.
2. Check your current stash
Do a thorough sweep of your home; more specifically check your kids’ desks, cabinets and drawers for items they can still use for school. Maybe you have extra notebooks and writing materials from last year’s haul that remain unused.
Make a list of required school supplies, then tick-off the items you still have while inspecting every inch of your house. Look for unused items, supplies you can reuse or perhaps swap with other parents in the immediate area. Place all of the supplies on a desk where you can clearly see your inventory.
3. Compare prices
Online shopping makes it easier to see what brands and the price range for an item. Online shopping websites allow potential buyers to shop from several different stores without leaving the site. Sites like these make research and comparing prices easier for parents and consumers alike.
Prices are not the only important factor when purchasing any type of item. In the case of more valuable tools such as laptops, online shopping sites allow visitors to compare product features, payment terms and more.
4. Prioritize bigger items
If you are like most families, you may have a tight budget for school items. School lists can get long. Doing your research on each item may help you save money, but you may end up wasting time in the process.
What you can do, instead, is to spend more time researching the more expensive items on the lists. You can save hundreds of dollars on a laptop rather than saving pennies or a few dollars on a ream of bond paper.
5. Restrict your children’s school activities
Place a limit on how many activities your children can take up in a single year or semester. Stick to one or two types within a given period.
Playing sports or even pursuing leisurely activities such as the arts cost money and time. By limiting your children’s sports or other activities, you won’t need to buy several sets of uniforms or materials. Plus, this also frees up your children’s time, allowing them opportunities to rest and relax.
This is especially important if you have a large household. Your kids may not be too fond of the idea, but it is a way to teach them about working within limits.
6. Shop alone
Parents who have a problem saying no to their kids will have a problem sticking to their budget. If you are in a similar situation, try doing your shopping while the kids are away. Perhaps while the kids are in school or off at summer camp.
Summer holidays are a fun time for kids and families alike. However, it is also the perfect time for families to prepare for the school’s opening, especially for parents don’t want to worry or rush into shopping for the coming school year.
By making preparations as early as possible, you can have more time researching and saving up for school supplies. Stay within your budget and maximize your savings by following the tips provided here.
George Azar is Co-Founder and CEO of HiCart.com. He has extensive work experience with blue chip multinational organizations on both regional and global levels. George is also the founder of companies in the fields of advertising and media buying, professional trainings and development.