Money Matters

Your Credit Union Newsletter

Back-to-School: More than the Basics


The back-to-school season has officially started, and, you are going to have to open your wallet wider than ever before. With the double whammy of inflation and the losses retailers suffered during the pandemic, discounts are becoming harder to find.  

The National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend an average of $848.90 on school items, $59 more than last year, and up almost 7.5%. Now more than ever, parents are looking for ways to save money on their back-to-school purchases.

Here are a few ideas to help save some money and make the back-to-school experience more enjoyable (or less of a pain!) for the whole family―with insight from our financial education partners, Balance.

1. Give your child a back-to-school shopping budget.

Allowing them to choose their supplies is a great way to teach valuable budgeting skills.

Pro Tip 1: Some supervision and mandatory items such as the school’s required supply list could be used for a need vs. wants the teachable moment.

Pro Tip 2. Budgeting is a great idea. Budgeting with your own age-appropriate bank account is even better. Your Credit Union has some excellent kid and youth banking options. They include special online clubs and newsletters with competitions, prizes, and informative content that’s fun and engaging.  They’ll save with healthy interest, have access to their funds under parental supervision, and have fun while learning about money management – without even realizing it. Learn more about our special options here.

2. Compare in-store sales prices to online prices.

Many brick-and-mortar stores are trying to compete with the convenience of online shopping by slashing prices on a few items each week. Comparing sales prices for in-store purchases to online prices could help you save. With a bit of research, better quality items or more supplies for the same price could result.

Pro Tip: Invite your child to help with the product research to help them learn the importance of shopping for the best price over instant gratification.

3. Buy in bulk with friends.

Children will need many school supplies—pens, pencils, erasers, paper, folders, etc. Like most items, these standard supplies are less expensive in bulk. Pooling resources with friends will not only save money but can be a fun way to interact.   You can also take full advantage of sales by pooling resources. 

Pro Tip: Find a park and plan a fun exchange party. This is an excellent time for the kids to play in a safe space, while the adults catch up or get to know each other better.

4. Rent books instead of buying.

Books can be one of the most significant expenses outside of tuition, but you can rent textbooks instead of buying them. Websites like Chegg, Campus Book Rentals, and eCampus, rent textbooks by the semester at a fraction of the cost of even used textbooks.

Pro Tip: Remember to check the due date to avoid additional fees. Ensure the book you are renting or buying is the most current edition.

5. Look for membership or community discounts.

Check with your local public resource organization to see if school supplies are available at or below cost. Many public organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Salvation Army, and some faith-based organizations partner with national retailers to provide free or reduced-cost supplies for community members.

Pro Tip: Many local libraries act as a hub to connect community members to valuable resources, so reach out to them to see if there are upcoming back-to-school discounts or events.

6. Shop from a list to limit unnecessary expenses.

This tip could be coupled with tip #1 to ensure essential items are not missed when your child is budgeting their money. It’s especially helpful with younger children.

Pro Tip: If your budget allows for some additional spending, the parent may use a hybrid approach to buying supplies. The parent could supply all of the mandatory supplies and then let the child choose a few additional items within the budget.

7. Learn about college savings accounts.

This is a great time to start or check on college savings accounts like the tax-advantaged Coverdell ESAs and 529 Plans. It could also be a good time to start or review your child’s checking and savings accounts. Making your child part of the money conversations in your household could help prepare them for the future. Recent studies have shown that children are up to seven times more likely to attend college if money is set aside for their education. 

Pro Tip: If you are unsure where to start saving, check with your financial institution for guidance.   Be sure to start with your Credit Union.  We offer a tax-advantaged Coverdell Education Savings Account plan that can help with expenses for both schools and later with college.  We can help you compare this with other options to see if it makes sense.  Learn more here.  

With these seven tips, we hope back-to-school shopping is less of a chore. By involving your kids in the exercise, it becomes an extra-curricular lesson on budgeting that can pay dividends for a lifetime.

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