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Tips to save money in your back-to-school budget

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Photo of books and a pink piggy bank on the desk

We hope you enjoyed at least a few days of relaxation this summer! But now…let’s get back to reality and schedules. We know it can be tough, but it does not have to be tough on your pocket with this back-to-school budget plan.

Planning, planning, planning

Notebook and pen (Or a cool budgeting app on your mobile!)

Start by writing down a list of all expenses the school year involves. It may include supplies (pens, crayons, notebooks, binders…), backpacks, clothes, extracurricular activities, lunch money, field trips…

Check what you already have

Can you re-purpose anything? Maybe you have an old backpack that needs a washing and some cool patching designs, so your kid can be excited to use it. Look for supplies/clothes in those boxes or drawers you haven’t opened in a while. Sometimes we buy new items only to discover we already had them, hiding in unexpected places.

Follow a monthly school budget

Plan the amount of money you can afford and make a list of what you will buy with it each month. Think about seasonal sales. For example, most stores offer school supplies in August at a discount, while other items, like shoes, might go on sale in December.

Consider hosting a costume “trade” with other families, looking for easy-to-make costumes online, or buying Halloween costumes the year before since they tend to go on sale right after Halloween. Goodwill is a great place for Halloween shopping!

Month  Budget What Where
August $80 Backpack




Discount Grocery Store

September $50 Art class fees



End of summer sale

October $50 Halloween costume

Sports fee



Involve your kids in the process

Education is one of the most important things in their lives, and you can teach them to follow a monthly budget so they can help you stay within yours.

Now yes! Let’s go shopping!

While trying to find the best school bargain, you could consider these tips…

Shop discounts and sales!

Dollar stores are a great option, and only buy what you really need. Sometimes “Just $1” is very appealing, but as you know, dollars can add up and get you off budget! Check discount grocery stores, too, since they dedicate full aisles to “back to school” items and sometimes have good deals as well.

Plan seasonal sales

At the end of August-September, you can find sales on summer clothes that can be used in the transition to Fall (maybe just in warmer states). Planning a few seasons early will save you money next summer.

Check if your state celebrates Tax Holiday

(Not all states apply). You will not pay the taxes on certain, important items. For example, On August 10-12, Texan residents don’t pay taxes on clothing, backpacks and school supplies up to $100! If you live in one of these states, take full advantage by gathering coupons.

Shop used clothes

You can find pretty cool clothes for your kids at thrift stores. Swap stores even allow you to bring in your clothes in exchange for some new (to you) used clothes, a perfect situation for growing children. Remember as well to check Craigslist, Facebook Market, and other webs/apps where people in your community offer good prices or even items for free!

Think if it it worth to buy in bulk

This could saves you money long term if you have the money to make the purchase and the space to store extra items. Or you could plan bulk purchases with other families. For example: kids need 4 notebooks a year. You can buy a pack of 12 notebooks for 12 dollars. That pack could be divided among 3 families (3 kids) and each family pays just 4 dollars.

Extend the life of the items

Remember your childhood when your parents bought you that large t-shirt saying “Bigger the better! It should last all year and you grow too fast”. The story is the same generation after generation. Also, for any jackets or other goods your kids might lose, help your kids form the habit of always double checking for items through constant reminders. (Label them just in case.) Consider second-hand jackets, either hand-me-downs from older friends and cousins or inexpensive ones from Goodwill or thrift stores.

And now that you are ready with these tips… Let’s rock that school year, family!


The information in this site, including any third-party content and opinions, is for educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal, tax, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Oportun product or service to your unique circumstances. Contact your independent financial advisor for advice on your personal situation.

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