Striking a balance between generosity and overspending during the back to school season can be a tough act to get right. You want to let your children know that you cherish them, but you don’t want to end up with a bunch of burdensome consumer debt when it’s all said and done. If you are worried about holding to your September budget, below are 5 ways to make sure that you keep your school season spending under control.
Set a budget beforehand.
Cliche, but time tested advice: having a budget saves you money. Simply knowing ahead of time that you have already determined how much money you can responsibly spend during the weeks leading up to the school year will allow you to control your spending. Establish a fund well in advance of shopping that is specifically dedicated to escrowing cash and be confident that you won’t overspend. Make sure that you’re making budget for books, dorm necessities, clothes and other items your children might need throughout the year.
Buy a gift card.
Buying gift cards is easy, cost effective and will help stop you from going overboard on impulse purchases. Decide on which stores will be necessary for your kids to shop at (Staples for class supplies, Ikea for dorm furniture, and a large outlet mall for new clothes) and buy gift cards there in advance. If you bring only those and leave your wallet in the car, you and your kids won’t be tempted to overspend, and it’ll force your family to think critically about what they do and don’t need to purchase while shopping.
It’s the little things that count.
Instead of looking for things to buy your child, why not give them something even more valuable: your time. If you have a special skill or particularly crafty, why not upgrade an old piece of clothing or old binders to make them new again? Recycling and reusing items will give them a personal (an inexpensive!) touch.
Buying online not only eliminates the need to be in malls during this busy season, but it is also a good fail-safe against overspending. Studies have shown that people are much more likely to make purchases in a store when they can see and feel what they are buying. The near infinite nature of web will also give you a better chance at finding the best deals possible and will prevent buying things that aren’t necessities.
Peruse buy and sells.
With some persistence, websites like Craigslist and Kijii can unearth some great finds if you know how and where to look. They are especially good for electronics as people are constantly upgrading. If your children need a new phone or an e-reader, you are almost guaranteed to find one, under market price, on either of these two websites. Make sure you check to see that everything is in full working order before handing over any cash.
There’s no real way around it: You’re going to be spending money during the back to school season and it can be easy to get caught up in generosity and end up spending more than you wanted to, or can, afford. Keep in mind the above 5 tips for avoiding overspending during the school season!