Back to School Shopping on a Budget

It's almost time to head back to school! Of course, that means you have to start buying all of those supplies for the upcoming year. And that can mean quite a lot of cost, especially if you have a couple of kids in different grades.

Fortunately, back to school shopping doesn't have to be as expensive as you think. If you exercise a little bit of ingenuity, you can save a bundle and still make sure you have all the items on the back to school list. Use these handy DOs and DON'Ts to help you shop on a budget!

Don't...

-Do not ignore your child's back to school list. If the teacher specifically requests 'plain orange pencils,' do not let your child talk you into fuzzy pink ones. Teachers make these requests for a reason, and it's never a good idea to start the school year by teaching kids that teachers' requests are optional.

-Do not get sucked into buying name brand products. As with any industry, the back to school shopping market tries to make one binder look flashier and fancier than others. If you want your kids to have personal choice in their school supplies, try this instead: forget the $15 binder and buy one for two or three bucks. Then let kids decorate the binder with artwork, cut out pictures, etc. Modge podge the whole thing to keep it in place.

-Do not drive all over town looking for the best back to school sale. It's fine to hit two or three stores, but no more: the money you spend on gas will probably be more than what you save.

Do...

-Do take your child(ren)'s back to school list with you. That way you know you won't forget anything.

-Do recycle items. There is no reason to buy a new ruler, pair of scissors, and pencil box every year. If items from last year are in good repair, you don't need new ones, no matter what the kids might say.

-Do consider looking in second hand shops for inexpensive and useful supplies.

-Do take quality into consideration. You can buy cheap pencils, but if they're going to constantly break and frustrate your child, you won't save money in the long run. Sometimes the savings are worth it (the difference between an $8 notebook and a $2 notebook usually comes down to the picture on the cover), but don't sacrifice quality for price.

-Do decide whether you want the kids along. Letting kids help choose their own back to school supplies can be a great way to psyche them up for the year ahead. On the other hand, if your kids are the type who always want 'the latest thing,' it might be better to just handle the shopping on your own without the pestering for movie star notebooks.

Remember, you can find a great back to school sale almost anywhere, so start shopping early. Buying back to school supplies should not cost a fortune.

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