PEI

Back to school: 5 ways to save money on shopping

Getting ready for a new school year can be exciting and fun, but it can also be expensive. Here are a few tips to help you save money.

P.E.I. mom shares advice on getting the shopping done without breaking the bank

Kids on P.E.I. go back to school Sept. 6. (Shutterstock)

Kids head back to school in less than a week, and for many parents that means finishing up the back-to-school shopping.

While getting ready for a new school year can be exciting and fun, it can also be expensive.

Monique McClean has a lot of experience with back-to-school shopping: her third child is about to start Grade 12, and she had two granddaughters starting kindergarten next week. She's also the early learning coordinator at Chances Family Centre PEI.

McClean shares some of her tips for back-to-school shopping on a budget. 

1. Plan ahead

McClean usually starts planning for back-to-school shopping about six weeks to two months before the start of the school year.

"You know they're all going to be going to school, and you know you're going to have to buy school supplies. So, you know, plan for it, and then that will alleviate some of the stress around it."

I wouldn't buy a new backpack every year unless they absolutely needed it.- Monique McClean

As part of planning ahead, McClean takes an inventory of what items her kids already have to make sure she doesn't buy more than is necessary.

"I wouldn't buy a new backpack every year unless they absolutely needed it, because it's an expensive item."

Plan ahead to make sure you're only buying what you really need. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

2. Compare prices

As part of the planning process, McClean recommends comparing prices before you shop.

She often looks at the flyers sent out by major retailers mid-summer to see where she can find the best deals.

"Not that you want to go to a hundred thousand different places, but I think getting the best value for your buck is always worthwhile," said McClean.

3. Involve your kids

Involving kids in the shopping process can help parents spend less money, and make sure the money they do spend is going toward what their kids need and want most, she said.

"Maybe having, you know, the right Hello Kitty pencil case is really important to one of your children, but they're willing to use the same backpack as last year."

For older kids, she said, asking them to pitch in on things that aren't necessities can help teach them about the value of a dollar. 

"One year, my son — who was working at the time, working part-time — you know, he really wanted these Converse sneakers that were $150. And so I said to him, 'Well, I'll contribute this much, and if you want to contribute the rest, then you can get them,'" she said.

"Often when they have to contribute their own money, they'll rethink it, which is really kind of funny."

Involve your kids in the shopping process. (CBC)

4. Research the technology

With technology becoming a popular educational tool, McClean said parents can easily end up spending hundreds of dollars more than they would have in years past, which can put a strain on some families.

"You don't want your child to get behind because they don't have it, but at the same time it can be a huge cost."

She recommends talking to your child's teacher before investing in a computer or other expensive piece of technology.

"Technology is evolving and changing so quickly that the teacher might have something in mind and your child may be thinking of something else."

5. Only spend what you can

While the list of back-to-school needs can seem endless, McClean said families with a tight budget should try to stick to the basics and buy less urgent items partway into the school year if possible.

Avoiding big box stores can also help, she said.

You have to do what makes sense for you and your family, and making sure that you still have money to put food on the table.- Monique McClean

"That might mean going to Value Village or going to a thrift store where you can get some things that are still in really really good shape and, you know, with the knowledge that probably within a year they're going to grow out of it."

While school supplies are important, McClean emphasized that families shouldn't feel pressured to blow their budget.

"You have to do what makes sense for you and your family, and making sure that you still have money to put food on the table."

Only spend what you're able to. Don't feel pressured into blowing the bank. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

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