There’s nothing worse for a household budget than big-ticket expenses, even when you know they’re coming. And one of the most challenging spending periods is well underway: back-to-school shopping.
As back-to-school (and back-to-work) season kicks off, retailers across the U.S., from Famous Footwear to Newegg and more, are stocking stores with fresh outfits, the latest tech and essential office supplies. The back-to-school season is always a time of new beginnings, but parents and their kids are more eager than usual for a fresh start after being away from school during the pandemic. That emotion will fuel spending: Back-to-school sales in the U.S. are expected to grow 6.7% from 2019 and 5.5% from last year, according to a forecast by Mastercard SpendingPulse. In fact, the only retail holiday bringing in more cash in the U.S. is the holiday season.
Don’t let the excitement of this year’s back-to-school season overwhelm your budget. With some planning and helpful tools, you can avoid the financial burden that sudden large expenses may bring.
Here are five tips to help you avoid the pain of a back-to-school spending spree.
1. Consolidate your shopping
If you have one favorite retailer that consistently offers good prices, carries everything you’ll need and that you know your way around, try to do all your shopping in one stop (or two at most), whether online or in person. It’s easier to keep track of exactly how much you’re spending on clothes and supplies for the kids if it’s all on one or two bills, rather than several.
2. Shop online — or alone
If you still have time, shop online if possible to avoid those last-minute impulse buys that your child doesn’t need. For parents who do need to shop in-store, try to run that errand without the kids in tow. You’ll be less likely to stray from the list — or your budget.
3. Spread out the expenses using buy now, pay later
Especially when you have more than one child to shop for, the costs of back-to-school shopping can be tough to fit into your budget. To lessen the financial burden, use a tool like Zip, formerly known as Quadpay, which will split any purchase into four interest-free installments over six weeks. With Zip’s “buy now, pay later” approach, you’ll avoid the trap of using high-interest credit cards to meet your expenses. Withdrawals for each of the payments are set up to be automatically charged to whatever bank account you provide, so you won’t have to worry about missing a payment. You can use Zip for online or in-store purchases. You can download the app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
4. Scope out the school list ahead of time
Before shopping, go through your school’s list of required supplies and make sure that you’re not duplicating a bunch of items you already have. Check your child’s room and backpack to see what items can easily be reused, such as scissors or rulers.
5. Save some items for later
There’s no reason you have to buy everything right at the beginning of the school year. Wait to buy a few items on your child’s wish list until later in the year, such as a new backpack or lunchbox, if you already have one that’s still in good shape. Let a new lunchbox or backpack be a special gift for your child’s next birthday or holiday instead.
Getting back to school can be stressful, but it’s also exciting for the whole family. Thanks to these strategies, you can make sure your budget doesn’t take a hit during this big transition.