Back to School on a Budget

Turning the page on the calendar to mark back to school season is a joy for many parents who’ve spent their summer juggling day camps, daycare and babysitters. For others, it’s a big relief to get the kids back into a routine after little to no structure for ten consecutive weeks. And then there’s the beginner parent; the one who’s been hyper-aware of the official first day of the school year, the one who might have circled the date on the calendar and the one who’s been perhaps more excited and nervous about starting school than their four-year-old child. Before you let go of your little one’s hand and lead them on the path to independence, you’ll want to make sure you’re ready for the big day. So why not do it for less?

Back to school supplies:

We know a child beginning Kindergarten will be traveling light: a backpack, insulated lunch bag and a few primary supplies. The older the child, the more likely you’ll be filling that backpack with paper, binders, pens and pencils. Most schools prefer you bring a garbage-less lunch, which gives parents a push to find creative ways to package meals and snacks. This doesn’t mean you need to channel your inner Martha Stewart and get crafty with lunches, but investing in a few different sized reusable storage containers will be worth your while.

Back to school sales and discounts:

The advertisements are at your every turn — friends and family deals, Buy One, Get One (BOGO) events and end-of- summer sales. Instead of feeling compelled to check out every deal, fine tune your thrifty parent sensor and prioritize. If you’re looking for shoes, a BOGO sale is ideal, especially since many schools request you bring a second pair of shoes for indoor play. Browsing end-of-summer clearance racks is also a great idea. You’ll likely find t-shirts for a few bucks, which can be paired with zip-ups once the cooler weather sets in.

The trick is scoring the right bargain. Many big chain stores will price match, so if you have a few extra minutes when you’re not packing lunches, sending a quick work email or trying to reason with your toddler (which is highly unlikely anyway), check out online flyers for deals. Many reset weekly deals each Thursday. But one item I would splurge on is a backpack. Some retail for under seven bucks, but it might not last for long and you could be heading back to the store for a new one by the time Halloween hits.

Back to school outfits:

A new fall/winter wardrobe can be one of the biggest incentives for kids who might be dreading an early wake up call after a restful summer. Finding the right places to buy clothes doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking. Signing up online to receive store offers and discounts can save you time and money. Companies like Old Navy regularly send out e-reminders, complete with sale items and the duration of their deals. If this year’s budget is a little tighter than last year’s, there are also many second hand stores that offer gently used items. A five dollar sweater can definitely be justified and there’s a good chance your child will outgrow it within a couple of months.

Back to school tips:

We’ve all heard it before — routine is key. And it’s best to begin settling into your child’s new bedtime a couple of weeks before the start of school by gradually moving sleep and wake up times closer to your desired schedule. While many parents have good intentions, not all of us will get into the swing of things before the first day. Let’s face it: most will admit the new routine won’t actually start until the alarm goes off on the first day of school. Or perhaps after you hit the snooze button. Twice.

  • Research shows children require between 9 and 13 hours of sleep per night, depending on age.
  • Laying out your child’s clothes the night before might not seem like a big time saver, but it can be for a mom or dad on the go.
  • If your child will be riding the bus, it’s best to check in with the bus company before the start of school, especially if your precious cargo isn’t used to their surroundings.

Don’t fret if you’re feeling rusty getting back into the school routine. Rest assured all that prep work will seem like a distant memory in a few weeks.