Public schools may be free, but parents of school-age children still face a seemingly endless tab of back-to-school expenses. According to a 2018 Deloitte Back-to-School survey, the average U.S. household will spend $510 in 2018 on school-related purchases across three categories: clothing and accessories, school supplies, and computers/hardware/electronic gadgets. Add in must-have extras like lunch and extracurricular activities fees, and the bill may end up even higher for some families.
If you’re on a tight budget, here are some ways you can cut down on the cost of getting your kids ready to go back to school now and continue saving throughout the school year…
1) Find out if your child qualifies for free or reduced cost school meals
In Illinois, you need to apply for a meal program through your school, but Benefits.gov lists income eligibility levels for free or reduced price meals!
2) Contact your local community or youth center
In many areas, community and youth centers like neighborhood Boys & Girls Clubs organize drives to obtain donated school supplies, which they distribute to families in need.
3) Clip coupons
Various apps and websites are dedicated to tracking coupons, deals and discount offers. Usually you have to register to use the site, but the sites listed below won’t charge you anything to access savings coupons and discount codes:
- The Krazy Coupon Lady – Sign up to receive savings alerts from this website
- Piggy – If your device is compatible, you can download this Google Chrome extension and browse discount offers at popular back-to-school stores.
- Groupon – This link takes you directly to the back-to-school deals offered on Groupon.
4) Comparison shop online to save time and money
The dollar store might be your best bet for pencils and crayons, but you may want to compare prices for major purchases such as a new backpack. Traveling from store to store to look for the lowest prices isn’t economical or practical, but you can easily comparison shop on your mobile phone.
If you do decide to buy online, just be sure to check shipping costs before clicking “purchase.” Many sites offer free shipping above certain purchase amounts or with discount codes – see above to find out more about apps that will give you access to retail discount codes.
5) Join your school parents’ group
Find out if your kids’ school has a private parents’ group on a social media platform like Facebook. Sometimes these groups are not organized by the school itself, but by a group of parents who want to help everyone stay informed. Members often share valuable tips on local savings opportunities and may even offer used books and sports equipment for sale!
6) Get informed with these helpful online articles
There’s a wealth of information online to help you learn more about spending less on school and activity expenses. Here are a few articles to get your started:
- 16 Ways to Save Money on Kids’ Activities (Washington Post)
- 7 Ways To Save On Back-To-School Expenses (Personal Capital)
- How to Save Money on Back-to-School Supplies (Consumer Reports)