10 ways to save money this school year
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Back-to-School Savings1 of 11
By Elizabeth Jenkins
Being in school is expensive, no matter what age your kids are. They need backpacks, notebooks, binders and more. (And that’s not counting new clothes.) To help you make it 'til Christmas break without going broke, here are ten money-saving tips.
DIY Calendar2 of 11
Prepare for the start of school by putting together a calendar to highlight upcoming events. (Use poster board for each month.) With a ruler, you can easily create a grid, and then decorate it any way you wish. Color coding is always a good option; devote a certain color to each child, or to a type of event, such as red for school functions (like parent-teacher night and sixth-grade car wash) and green for sports practices and games.
Rack It Up3 of 11
With preschoolers, paint, glitter, glue, markers and more are likely to end up smeared and splattered onto clothes. Instead of spending money on designer duds for little ones, take the time to wade through the clearance racks at your favorite clothing store. In fact, this kind of bargain hunting should be done at least twice a year: in August when T-shirts and shorts are greatly reduced, and around the holidays, when stores deeply discount sweaters, sweatshirts and other cold-weather apparel.
Supplies & Demand4 of 11
Make your dollars stretch further by buying your children’s school supplies in bulk and distributing them in stages. This is especially important with pens, pencils, markers and highlighters. If you give them a box of 12 all at once, they likely won’t appreciate each one and may not keep track of them. Plus, highlighters and markers dry out, so it’s best to let them use one or two until they’re kaput before giving your children more.
Shop Your Closet5 of 11
Section off some space in your house—in your laundry room, pantry or garage—for school supplies you’ve bought in bulk. By allocating a special place for these items, you'll have quick and easy access when your child says he or she needs more construction paper for tomorrow's art project. Overspending often rears its ugly head during those late-night dashes for more glue or printer paper. So stay on budget by shopping your own stash.
Name of the Game6 of 11
Save yourself from another year of rifling through the lost and found at your child’s school in hopes that you can find his favorite lunchbox or hat. Simply buy a package of printer-friendly labels and run off a sheet of them with your child’s first and last name. Stick one to the front of every spiral notebook, folder and pencil pouch before the first day of school, so that if he misplaces anything, it will find its way back to him—thus saving you a trip to the store for new ones.
Bottle It Up7 of 11
Those tiny juice boxes and miniature water bottles may be cute, but they’re also costly—not to mention bad for the environment. Purchase a reusable bottle instead. Your child can make a fashion statement by choosing one with a cool design and you’ll get the chance to talk to him about taking care of the planet.
Safety First8 of 11
Sunscreen is supposed to be reapplied every 90 minutes—even if you slather it on before your child heads to school, its effectiveness will have worn off by the time she goes to recess. So send her to school with her own supply. While you’re at it, put together a baggie with a few other first-aid items that she can keep in her backpack or locker to take care of minor boo-boos on her own. Though most stores sell pre-made kits, you’ll save money by compiling your own.
Under Lock & Key9 of 11
As much as we’d like to pretend it doesn't, theft in schools happens. Backpacks get snatched and lockers ransacked—for toys, textbooks and technology. Invest in a Master Lock for your child’s locker and tell him to store valuables there between classes. Whether you have more than one student or not, it makes sense to buy a three-pack. Chances are he will lose one at some point—or forget the combination—which is why having a spare is not a bad idea.
Game On10 of 11
If your kid is a Little Leaguer, then you know that sports equipment can be pricey. To maintain equipment all year long, store sporting goods indoors or in the garage in a large bin. Rain, sun and even dew will quickly take their toll on gloves, basketballs and soccer balls if they’re left out on the grass.
Let's Eat11 of 11
While schools are taking steps to improve cafeteria offerings, buying meals will still cost more than packing a lunch. Sure, your child might miss out on taco day, but you’ll save money in the long run. Before school starts, remember to review what kinds of things she likes to eat, since children’s tastes constantly evolve. Even if you sent her with PB 'n' J sandwiches every day last year without complaint, she might appreciate the occasional turkey or egg salad sandwich.