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Back-to-school season is right around the corner, and it is a time when many parents are left scrambling to buy classroom supplies and an updated wardrobe for a growing kid and paying registration and sports fees.
University of Alabama at Birmingham Regions Institute for Financial Education Director Stephanie Yates, Ph.D., provides insight into how parents can use budgeting to plan and save on back-to-school items this fall.
According to Yates, an associate professor of finance in UAB’s Collat School of Business, back-to-school shopping can be burdensome for many families who do not have the funds to spend a lot at one time.
“That’s why budgeting is key to shopping smart and saving as much as possible,” Yates said. “Families who prepare and are knowledgeable about sales and different offers out there really benefit from the budget processing.”
For example, she said, “A big mistake parents make is to look at this shopping event as strictly back-to-school and not as the entire school year. Your family will likely run out of school supplies, and this may be the only time of year they are on sale, so you should stock up now if you can.”
Yates offers five tips to stay within a back-to-school budget:
- Create an estimated cost list. Look at your student’s school supplies list, estimate the total costs of basic purchases and set aside funds for your shopping trip. Determine how many of each item your student will need so that you do not end up overbuying items and stocking up on supplies that will never get used.
- Know all your options. Not every deal is found at a big box store. Thrift stores are priced low, and many offer additional discounts. Auction websites are another platform that often offer lower prices on new and used items. If your child wears a uniform, check with your school to see if they re-sell previously worn uniforms.
- Look online first. Shopping online can be convenient for the busy parent or college student who does not want to make a few extra trips to the store, and it is a great way to compare prices and find coupon codes. Consider the cost of shipping and taxes when making higher-priced purchases. Also check the return policy in case you do not really need something or end up having to buy a different style, brand or item. Look for the option of buying online and picking up at your local store to avoid shipping fees.
- Shop with a gift card. A major benefit to using a gift card is that it can be used online and in the store. Perhaps even more important is that it forces you to stick to a set budget because you will not be able to buy anything once the allotted dollar figure on the card runs out.
- Shop for supplies during tax-free weekends. Alabama’s tax-free weekend is July 21-23 this year. The weekend serves shoppers who want to save money on school supplies and other school-related purchases. You could save up to 7 percent on your entire purchase by planning your school supplies shopping trip during a tax holiday. There are also tax breaks on clothing and electronics. Find out more about Alabama’s guidelines on the Alabama Department of Revenue’s website.