Can you believe that it’s back-to-school time already? It’s incredible how quickly the summer flies by! Sad to say, it’s time to kiss those chill, flexible days goodbye—and figure out how to afford all the beginning-of-the-school-year expenses. Whether it’s school supplies, clothing, or gear, here are our suggestions for dishing out less while taking home more!

Have a Clear Plan

Having a clear plan in place BEFORE you start shopping is our top suggestion! Do a quick inventory to see what you already have, consider what you need (and what you don’t), and make a concise list. Once you get to the store it can be difficult to resist the blizzard of promotions—not to mention your children’s requests. An inventory and a list will help you consider your options and prioritize your purchases.  Do your kids need all new binders, for example, or are a few of last year’s salvageable if they’re spiffed up with some new stickers or Washi tape?  Would it be cheaper to wait until the holiday sales to buy new winter boots? Is it possible to get some of their soccer gear second hand?

With your list in hand, it will be a lot easier to create a budget. Let your children in on the plan so they understand your budget and how you created it. It’s a great budgeting lesson for them, too. This is especially true if you plan to hit the mall with a teenager or two. Consider giving teens a budget and letting them do their own research and comparison shopping. They may surprise you with their shopping savvy!

Compare Sales

Before you finalize your list and head out the door, check online for sales. This will help you plan ahead and decide which stores you want to go to in what order. You may even be able to take care of many or your purchases without leaving the house. 

Price Match Guarantee

It is surprising how few people actually take advantage of this option, even though many stores offer it. If you see something you purchased being sold for a better price somewhere else, head over to customer service with your receipt and get some money back!

Sales Tax Holiday

An increasing number of states are designating special days that allow locals to buy specific items without having to pay sales tax. It’s amazing how much you can save, so watch for your state’s sales tax holiday before stocking up. These savings events typically take place sometime in July or August before the first day of school.

Avoid Credit Cards

This is a difficult one, but if you leave your credit cards at home and pay cash, you are likely to spend less and you won’t have interest to pay down the line. Of course, there will be times when you simply have no choice but if you can, use cash when buying big-ticket items.

While you probably won’t avoid spending money this time of year, you can definitely find some savings if you put your mind to it. 

Are you ready for back-to-school? What back-to-school strategies have worked best for you?