Sense & Centsibility Blog

Saving Money During Back to School Season

back to school

Even though it is only July, all the stores and Sunday ads are buzzing about “Back to School”. At this time last year I was preparing to send my oldest daughter off to Kindergarten. It was my first time through the school shopping process and I learned a lot. I was so wrapped up in the excitement and anxiety of my first child entering school that I wanted everything to be perfect so… I went all out. This year, I will take a deep breath and keep my lessons from last year in mind.

School Clothes Shopping

Last fall I went school clothes shopping for my daughter. I was thinking about picture day, school programs, winter weather, and of course what I thought she would look adorable in sitting perfectly in her tiny desk. So I stocked her up on jeans, cute sweaters, dresses, shoes for every occasion, and the best outdoor gear I could find for the playground.



  1. Take inventory
    I should have taken an inventory of what she had in her closet that fit and what she actually needed. She had plenty of sweaters and jeans already, but she was low on t-shirts and clothes to layer in. And what I found out was that when you get twenty 5-year-olds in one room, it can get pretty hot. Sweaters were not always an ideal choice. As for the dresses, with the long winter we had there weren’t many dress appropriate days; so what she already had would have been plenty. So spend some time in their closet before you go, make a list, and stick to it. Bonus: you can donate or sell their clothes that don’t fit anymore. Now you are ready to shop for what you need and your child has a clean closet.
  2. Choose your battles
    Turns out a 5-year-old girl can suddenly develop a very strong opinion about what she wears…who knew? Most mornings went just fine, but there were some that didn’t go as smoothly. I heard a lot of “It’s too scratchy”…“I don’t like that color” or “I just don’t like how it feels”. Although you and your child will not always see eye to eye on apparel, it is to your benefit to make sure that what you purchase will actually be worn! Ask them about their favorite things to wear and why.
  3. They work hard and play hard
    Not only did she grow a full size over the year but she was a lot harder on her clothes than I expected. She wore holes in the knees of pants and along with stains from paints, markers, and the occasional food spill, the harshness of kindergarten was starting to show. So shop the bargains and stock up on the stain remover.
  4. Things disappear
    Kids leave things behind (in the gym, in the cafeteria, out on the playground, in the classroom, and on the bus - to name a few) and finding something in an elementary school lost and found is like hunting for a needle in a haystack. So label their clothes and don’t send them to school in anything you are not willing to permanently part with…you may never see it again.

School Supplies

school shopping

School supplies were a little easier because the school gives you a list telling you what your child needs for the year; then you can shop for savings on those items. Something to keep in mind: save the receipts for your child’s school related supplies. They may be tax deductable depending on what state you live in…every little bit helps!

Pace yourself

With school, sports, and activities come…fundraisers. Each one is for a good cause, but if you don’t pace yourself you will find that you have financially overcommitted. Give what you can comfortably donate and if you want to contribute more, donate your time. Talk with your child’s school about volunteering; not only are you supporting your child and their school, but setting a good example at the same time.

The best thing you can do to get what your child needs, to reduce stress, and avoid breaking the bank is plan ahead. Using these easy tips will simplify school shopping – not to mention save you time and money…which, let’s face it, are both crucial when it comes to raising happy, healthy children.

Want some money-saving ideas for good old fashioned family fun? Check out 7 Cheap or Free Family Fun Activities by Malcolm Johannessen.

Don’t have a monthly budget/spending plan set up yet? Call LSS at 888.577.2227. Talk with one of our Financial Counselors who will help you determine what you can afford for school shopping and fundraisers. We are here to help you achieve your financial goals and conquer your debt! So don’t wait to improve your finances – take action today!

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Author Ashley Hagelin is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling and she specializes in Reverse Mortgage Counseling.