Life is a series of cycles, and the one that often hits the hardest – especially for parents with school-aged children – begins every September. That’s right, it’s back-to-school time! Again! 

Just like last year, you tell yourself. Only this year, we’re going to stay on budget. 

It is so easy to become overwhelmed by options this time of year, and end up adding extra items to your cart, just in case – especially if you don’t have a plan.

But never fear. We’ve put together a handy list of simple strategies you can employ beginning even a year in advance, to help ease the back-to-school burden. And then hopefully, when it comes back around again next year, things can get even more seamless. 

Figure out a budget and track your spending.

A budget is just a plan for how you intend to spend your money, but it’s useless if you’re not tracking your spending. How much can you afford to put towards school expenses? Once you know how much you (ideally) plan to spend, you can begin tracking your expenses as you go.

Feel free to use an app, a spreadsheet, or a pen and paper. Whichever method you prefer, take notes on where your money is going – this is the best way to identify areas where you may be overspending, or might consider cutting back on next year. 

Take inventory of what you already have.

Before you begin your big back-to-school shop, it’s important to have a look at what you already have on hand – maybe you slightly overbought last year, or perhaps some supplies are (somehow) still in really good condition. Either way, it’s always helpful to take stock of what you have before heading out to purchase new. 

Make an itemized list of what you need.

This is one of the easiest things you can do to stay on track, and also to make things less overwhelming for your brain. With list in hand (or on phone screen), you’ll cross off things as you pick them up, and most importantly, you’ll know right away if you deviate from the list. Supplies, clothes, books, etc. All of it can go on the list, which can be broken down into smaller lists by category if that makes things easier. 

Consider second-hand.

For books and clothes especially. What fit last year might very well be too small now. Visiting thrift shops, used book stores, and even online marketplaces are great ways to get some of the things your kids need without breaking the bank.

Begin planning next year’s back-to-school budget, this year.

It is never too early to start planning! If you start putting money aside now, think of how much you will have saved by the time the next school year comes around – and how much more organized you’ll be. 

If this time of year still feels overwhelming, you’re not alone! Know that your first step can always be contacting a financial professional. We are happy to discuss your financial plans and help you tackle a back-to-school budget that suits your lifestyle. Get in touch today for a free consultation.