6 Dos and Don’ts for Back-to-School Budgets (Hint: none of them have to do with coupons or sales)

back to school 1. DO – Make a List of Everything You Need. Do not get sucked into impulse buys or surprised by urgent needs at the last minute. Include clothes, shoes, sports gear and activity fees your child needs for the start of school, not just pencils and pens. When things just ‘come up’, we just buy it and do not have time to think if it’s really necessary or not or when the best time is to buy it. 

2. DO – Prioritize Your Back-to-School Items. Use your Back-to-School budget to buy highest priority items first and work your way down from there.  If you don’t prioritize, you could spend your way through your budget and not have the important, required stuff and then you may have to charge it. For older kids, prioritize together.

  • Yellow: MUST HAVES – minimal number of each item your child is required to have by school in their plainest form (e.g. must have one notebook for each subject)
  • Green: SHOULD HAVES – things you want your child to have, but maybe not 3 of them or the most expensive ones. 
  • Blue:  WISH LIST – things your child wants, but does not need for school or maybe fancier types of YELLOW and GREEN items

3.  DO – give your kids a BLUE budget. It does not matter how small, as long as it makes sense for your Back-to-School budget (try 10% of your total budget for Back-to-School supplies), and it may be the only way your child can get any of his BLUE – ‘WISH LIST’ items.  The rest should be up to you.  If you have teenagers, you can get their input if you want, but you have final say.

4.  DON’T – charge your back to school items because you did not save for them. Instead,take small amounts from other areas of your monthly household budget and create a Back-to-School budget. Combine $40 from monthly groceries, $50 from monthly entertainment and $10 from personal care or clothing for your ‘Back-to-School’ budget. Leave your credit card at home and pay in cash. 

5.  DON’T – fall for the hype.  You may not need everything all at once. Take your child’s school list, inventory his/her clothes, shoes, bags and see where he/she needs things and where you can wait for the weather to change or for a sale.

6.  DON’T – shop with your child if possible. Stealth shopping is often cheaper, because you can control yourself (hopefully) and focus on Back-to-School YELLOW ‘Must-Haves‘. Either shop online after the kids are asleep or wait until they are at an activity or grandma’s house.