8 ways to find back to school savings

Back to school costs add up fast. Between shopping trips, all the transportation to and from school, and after school activities, it can all easily blow through your budget for the month if you aren’t saving where you can. Here are 8 ways to keep some of that cash in your wallet.

1. Buy used. Of course we would advise that, but it makes a big difference! Even just buying used a few big ticket items cuts expenses way down. Getting your kids’ coats and backpacks off Kijiji will free up money to spend on something else, and chances are you can find gently used ones without too much trouble. Organizing a family clothing swap is another way to outfit kids going through a growth spurt with stuff that will fit them.

2. Get stationary from dollar and bargain stores, or buy in bulk. Specialty stationery stores might have beautiful and high-quality items, but you can get the supplies much cheaper elsewhere. If your kids don’t like the appearance of bargain notebooks, they can always personalize them.

3. Wait until the school term starts to buy anything beyond the basics.After the first week,your kids might realize that the fashions they thought they wanted before school started are entirely different from what they want after school has begun. Local advertisers don’t always have the right sense of what styles will be found on the schoolyard. Save yourself some money by waiting to see what they will actually want and need, and avoid buying anything that you can afford to come back for once the school year is underway.

4. Prepare meals in advance to save on buying school lunches. If you have a hard time finding time to get meals together during the week, make some slow cooker meals on Sunday and pack up the meals for the week. Pick your ingredients carefully for cost-to-nutrition value. Lentils are a great and cheap source of protein, but don’t overuse them or have them be the main feature of a dish (unless your children really love them).

5. Have your kids walk to school. It might take a little longer, but the costs will be lower, as you won’t have that gas bill adding up over time. If you don’t have time to walk your kids in the morning and they are too young to go on their own, talk to some other parents in the neighbourhood. You might be able to find someone who can walk them in the morning if you pick them up in the afternoon, or vice versa. You might even find a few sets of people willing to pool resources to make it work, or some other kids who are old enough to escort your kids to school in the morning.

6. Barter for childcare. Having your kids in daycare after school can get very expensive. But, if it’s your only option, you might be able to join forces to save some money. Having your kids go to a friend’s house half the time, and having those friends come over the other half after school is a good way to collaborate with another parent if you have some flexibility at work. If you can’t do that, you could do something similar, but with babysitting in the evening. Another parent might jump at the chance to have your kids over for an hour after school every night if you will take their kids once a week so they can have a date night. Be creative and barter with other parents to save some money if you can.

7. Help your kids make money. Kids have expensive wish lists, so teach them some money management skills and save the family money by having them pay their own way (or at least a portion of it) when it comes to luxuries. Whether they have been begging for a puppy or a new iPhone, use their goal as motivation to make some of their own money. Older kids can mow lawns, shovel snow, or walk dogs, but they may have other, more enterprising ideas for how they can make some of their own money. Teach them what goes into making money to support their own discretionary spending.

8. Be creative with extra curricular activities. After school hobbies can get very expensive with all the gear and fees. Be sure to buy gear used whenever you can, there’s plenty out there to find the right sizes.. For sports teams and leagues, you may be able to save some money by keeping informed about what your local area has to offer. Do you have outdoor rinks with free shinny and pick up games of hockey for kids? If your child wants to try hockey, this could be a good starting point. If they love it and want to play competitively, you can sign them up next year, or you could see if there are any lower-cost options than what is offered at the local indoor rink. Many parks and recreation departments offer low cost sports, dance, and art classes for kids as well.

Using even just a few of these tips can add a nice buffer to your budget for unexpected expenses, or even splurging a little more in another area. Though don’t get too excited, there are still the holidays to think about!

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