Frugal Planning for Back-to-School

Tips for getting organized and saving money as you prepare for starting back to school

The school supplies section always calls my name this time of year. Can you hear it? Sharp pencils . . . colorful notebooks . . . pretty folders . . . spiffy new backpacks! As tempting as it is to buy yet another new box of Crayolas, the best prevention for overspending this time of year is a little advance preparation.

Get Organized. Save Time and Money

Plan ahead

Figure out what you and your students really need and write it down on a list. If your child is attending school outside the home, you should have a list from the teacher or district of everything you need. If you’re homeschooling, think about what you’ll really use. For us, printer paper and ink are probably our most-used supplies.

Instead of wandering the aisles tossing things in your cart, take your list with you to the store and stick to it! As tempting as all those cute ‘Minions’ notebooks are, limit how many extras each child can choose. Set a limit in advance so there won’t be any misunderstandings at the check out line.

Frugal planning tips for saving money and getting organized for going back to school

Shop your closets

Do an inventory of what you already have on hand before compiling your list. Check markers and glue sticks to see if they’ve dried out, and toss anything that needs replacing, then add these items to your list. Our supply closet is packed full of index cards, but I can never find a roll of tape when I need one.

Bargain Hunt

Grab the sale papers and compare prices at the back-to-school sales. Look for the store that has the best prices on the majority of items you need. Unless you will save substantially by visiting several stores, it might be best to plan one trip to one store. The time and gas you’ll save, as well as dealing with tired kids, might be worth spending a few pennies more.

Check Out Consignment 

Consignment stores and thrift shops are a gold mine for kids’ clothes. Find out which day they have specials, and take your list with you to shop. (Keep a note of sizes in your phone so you can find what you’re looking for easily.) Be realistic about climate, play-ability, and comfort before splurging on that cute 2-piece suit. Let kids be kids–granted they can be stylish and presentable, but you want them to be comfortable so they can focus on math and not scratching and squirming. Plus, you don’t want to worry about playground dirt ruining that pristine white blouse. I look for bright colors, soft fabrics like cotton, machine wash and dry, and pieces that mix and match easily.

Meal Plan

I don’t know about you, but school day lunches are a challenge for me. After a certain number of sandwiches, we just want a hot meal. Sitting down and making a list of meal ideas not only saves money, but it also saves time on busy school days. If you can find a few things that all your kids like and can be prepared ahead of time, it makes lunchtime a breeze. Pinterest is a good source for lunch ideas.

Follow Learning Table ‘s board Easy Meals on Pinterest.

Think outside the box, too:
  • If you’re making chili for supper, scoop out some and serve it over corn chips with a little cheese on top for chili pie.
  • Scrambled eggs and pre-cooked bacon are delicious with some salsa rolled into a tortilla.
  • A big batch of pasta salad stays fresh in the fridge for a few days and is a great way to sneak in some diced veggies.
  • For a fun pizza wrap, spread a little tomato sauce on a pita, add some cheese and pepperoni, and roll it up, secured with a toothpick. These are good warm or cold.

Hopefully, these tips will help you save a little bit of time and money as you prepare for the new school year. We’d love to hear your tips as well. Add your money saving ideas in the comments below!

Happy Back-to-School!

 

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Comments (18)

  1. Fresh, Pure, Sweet

    Great article! I especially want to start meal planning- it is such a long time goal!
    Emily, http://www.freshpuresweet.com

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Thank you, Emily!

      Reply
  2. Lauren

    These tips could be my to do list – so helpful! I am a huge bargain hunter, but I am always behind on meal planning, especially for packed lunches. Heading to Pinterest now…

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Awesome, Lauren!

      Reply
  3. Samantha

    Love these tips for saving!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Thanks for stopping by, Samantha!

      Reply
  4. Logan Can

    I love consignments! That is where I buy most of my kid’s clothes! They are hardly worn and are so cheap!

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      It can be challenging to find boys’ pants without holes in the knees, but I usually do pretty well. Thanks, Logan!

      Reply
  5. Michelle @SimplifyLiveLove

    Yes! We’re moving this month (just out of our barn and into the house we’ve been building for the last two years), but it’s given me even more of an incentive to go through all of our school things!! I am determined to get organized this year. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Yay, Michelle! Congratulations!

      Reply
  6. Janice

    Great tips – especially “Shop Your Closets” one! I have so much stuff from homeschooling over the years, that I have to always do this before I go to the store to buy supplies. I always forget I already have something, or there’s stuff I can still use because it hasn’t been used up yet! Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      A few times, I’ve misplaced a book, knowing I have it, only to end up buying another one. Then, the other one turns up every time!

      Reply
  7. Jill

    I remember the first time I shopped for my son’s school clothes, I bought a pair of white shorts. WHITE SHORTS. We live in a hot climate so they can usually wear shorts through October, but white? Yeah…what was I thinking? All good tips!!!

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      I have never bought my boys any white shirts, either. I am too afraid of the stains!I see precious little Prince George in his white smocked outfits, and think, Um, yeah, right!

      Reply
  8. C. Lee Reed

    Wish I still go to do school shopping; no more kiddies in school. These are some great tips for saving money. It’s tax free weekend here in FL!

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Here, too! Thanks so much C. Lee. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Lori Hill-Smith

    Great tips for saving money. Oftentimes we don’t take the time to think things through and be organized and it ends up costing us a lot of money. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Anne Campbell (Post author)

      Thanks, Lori!

      Reply

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