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by Janet Doyle
It may come as a shock that Canadian families spend more on back to school than Christmas. An Angus Reid poll of more than 1,400 Canadians shows that 76% of moms say that back to school shopping puts a strain on finances, and 40% say it will take months to pay off the bill.
More than 30% of parents don’t realize how much they’re spending until they look at their credit card statement, which ends up doing more harm than good in the long run. The report shows that families expected to spend $883 in 2017, and 56% admit to blowing past their budget because they prioritize to make sure their children have everything they need over saving money. 32% of parents surveyed across the country said they are using debt to pay for the cost of extracurricular activities, an average of $1160 a year. Gear, tournaments, travel, coaching and fees come at a cost, but you can make it more affordable.
With a little planning, you can reduce the impact of the back to school costs with a few habits to implement throughout the year.
- Start by saving a little money each month to spend towards school costs.
- The best place to start shopping for supplies is at home by evaluating what your children currently have. Look around your own house for supplies and take inventory; if your child has been in school for awhile, there are most likely scissors, calculators, art supplies, etc. from previous classes hidden somewhere in your home. The best place to start is at the end of the school year, so store the supplies in a bin meant to hold any school related items all year round and put items that are still usable in the bin at the end of the year.
- Evaluate the clothing you children have and set aside what doesn’t fit for a swap or consignment. Consignment stores allow you to sell clothing for cash or credit and are a great way to trade up as children grow out of their clothes like weeds. They also have fashions that are unique and not usually currently in stores, so it makes for a fun shopping experience!
- If you have extra supplies and clothes, connect with other families and look at creating a back-to-school swap.
- Go online shopping before you hit the stores to compare prices. Look at popular big names like Walmart to see what deals are available at each store so you know where to look for the savings before you leave the house.
- A lot of stores price match – including Walmart, so even if you find something somewhere else, you can ask Walmart to honour the price, saving you time AND money.
- Your first stop should be the dollar store for the basics like notebooks, pencils, folders etc. for the best bargains.
- Kids often want the cute kitty or puppy binder or other “special” supplies that usually come at a premium cost; one way to create unique items is to buy generic, plain supplies and then let the children decorate the items themselves with stickers, glitter, etc.
- Many schools are now including technology as part of their curriculum with the use of tablets and computers. Second hand is the best way to find a good price on a gently used item, which makes more sense for children who may drop. damage, or lose it. Facebook Marketplace is a great place to look for these kinds of items.
- Many children want new clothing for school, but the best prices usually are not until the big rush is over at the end of September. Consider buying one new outfit for the first day of school and then waiting until the sales start so you get the best deals.
- Extra curricular activities and sports can become expensive, so start by looking for buy/sell groups on Facebook or checking on Kijiji. Start by looking early and Facebook can help you track items as they become available. There are usually swap programs hosted by leagues or clubs, so ensure you mark your calendar to get the best deals. Garage sales are always a great source for sports equipment.
- Buy off season for things you will know you need; which will be made possible with the savings you are setting aside each month. Bathing suits go on sale in the fall, and skates go on sale in the winter, so having an ongoing fund set aside will allow you to stretch your dollars and avoid going into debt to over your child’s back to school needs.
As you can see from our list of tips, the best back to school budget involves planning year-round to ensure your family maximizes the value of what they have, taps into community resources, and gets creative about stretching their dollar. If you haven’t be able to successfully implement a budget, are struggling with overwhelming debt and falling behind on your bills it might be time to speak with a professional about your options. Doyle Salewski offers a free consultation at one of our office locations or by video conferencing if you would prefer to speak 1-on-1 from the convenience of your own home. Call 613-237-5555 or email [email protected] to book your appointment and receive a customized plan for your debt free future.