Back To School Prep – On A Budget

We are so close to the first day of school and I’m plagued with mixed feelings. On one hand, I had so much fun this summer hanging out with the kids, especially since I quit my job back in May to pursue blogging full time. I have dreamed of doing this for so long and now that the summer is coming to an end, I’m realizing that I made very little progress on my blog because I was busy spending so much valuable time with my kids.

On that note though, they’re eating me out of house and home and I am tired of doing 3 loads of dishes and 2 loads of laundry a day. It never ends. 1 more week! We can do it!!

In preparation for back to school, I wanted to share how I’m getting my kids ready without stressing myself out and while on a budget.  I usually wait until the last minute to get things ready for school and I end up spending more money because of it. This year, I don’t have a job that demands 150% of my time and I’m on a budget, so no excuses! Here are some things I’m doing to get the kids everything they need without breaking the bank.

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Reuse what you can from last year
If your little ones are going into first grade or up, you should have some things you can use from last year. My kids tried to convince me to get new backpacks for them this year and I only caved on one (only because hers was too small last year). I told her that whichever backpack we got this year had to be used for the next 2 years AT LEAST so it needed to be durable. I ended up finding this set on Amazon which included a backpack, lunchbag, and pencil case for around $30. It had good reviews around quality so I’m hoping it holds up! If not, she’s going back to the one from last year.

My youngest is going into first grade and honestly, her bookbag was fine except it was super dirty and kinda smelly (I still haven’t figured out what the smell was…). I considered replacing it but I took a chance and threw it in the washer. It came out smelling great and looking almost new! (PS – I let it air dry because I’m not sure if a dryer would damage it). I am saving $30-$50 by reusing her backpack from last year.  I did let her pick out a new lunchbag which was around $10 on Amazon. If all works out, I will only have to buy one backpack next year too!

Sell old clothes to buy new ones and buy consignment
I’m a HUGE fan of kids consignment. Selling kids clothes is a great way to make some extra cash if you need it but most consignment stores will give you more if you take the store credit. The one I use gives you 20% more if you take the credit instead of cash! I usually take this option because the kids always need new clothes! It can be hit or miss depending on the time of year and what area you are in but I can replace an entire kid’s wardrobe for $40 there. When you add in your credit (I typically average anywhere from $10-$30 depending on how much they decide to buy), I can walk out with a ton of new clothes for both kids for around $60 or so.

Find Bulk Snacks on Sale
Around mid-July, I started looking for sales on snacks. I look for things like large cartons of goldfish crackers, raisins, pretzels, granola bars, applesauce, and anything ‘snacky’ that is non-perishable. I also buy some snack bags and the girls spend about an hour or so scooping snacks into snack bags. They both enjoy doing it because I let them snack on everything while they do it. It doubles as an activity to keep them busy for an hour or so and a fun snack. Our dog, Junior helps with anything that ends up on the floor (except raisins, he can’t have those!). 😉 Once I’ve stocked up on all of the non-perishable snacks, my goal is to make them last for a couple of months.

Once we get closer to the start of school, usually the weekend before, I also have them bag up some of the healthier perishable snacks like grapes, berries, carrots, etc. Then, they do this every couple of weeks during school. This keeps the fridge and pantry stocked with snacks for snacktime and lunches!

Start Early
By starting to prepare early, you have more options to choose from (aka – the cheaper supplies aren’t all gone yet). A majority of parents will go for the cheaper options on the shelf so if you wait until the last minute to shop, you may only be left with the more expensive options. Starting early also ensures that you are able to find everything on your child’s supply list. Nothing is worse than rushing around and fighting the last minute crowds trying to find something before school starts…ESPECIALLY the weekend before!

Skip fancy school supplies
I learned the hard way that in elementary school, buying those adorable fancy folders and notebooks is a huge waste! Trust me, I’m obsessed with all of the adorable unicorn supplies out right now but they’re triple (or more) the price of ‘plain’ supplies. Most elementary school teachers will combine all of the supplies that they receive and redistribute them throughout the classroom. This means that if you buy that super cute kitty cat folder for $2, they may end up with a $.50 folder from the teacher’s supply instead. You’re better off buying the less expensive ‘plain’ folders and notebooks. I also learned that a lot of elementary school teachers HATE fancy pencils. They usually avoid putting these in the classroom because kids fight over them. They prefer plain old yellow #2 pencils. You still want to buy quality supplies, just skip the fancy themed stuff until middle school.

If your kids are a little older and going into Middle or High School, the themed supplies can be fun and may be more worth the price. However, I find that buying one or two themed items and then matching them with plain items goes easier on the wallet. For example, the adorable pink and blue unicorn folder for $2 can be matched with a plain pink or blue folder for $.50. Instead of paying for the full themed set. When my kids are older, I plan on dong this and then if they want more themed items that I’m not willing to pay extra for, they are more than welcome to purchase those items with their own money.

Buy Transitional Clothes
When school starts in August, it’s still pretty hot outside in Atlanta. However, within a couple of months, the weather starts to cool down a bit and it’s time to start pulling out sweaters and boots. Buying a bunch of summer clothes for the kids to wear to school for only a couple of months is a waste.  While shopping for school clothes, I try to find transitional clothing that can be worn between August and December. They usually have a couple pair of shorts and some t-shirts from summer vacation that they can wear to school so I try to focus on things that can help those clothes transition into fall. Cardigans, tshirts, long sleeve tshirts (these are great to go under tank tops or tshirts when it starts to cool down), capris, 3/4 sleeve shirts, etc. Once back to school shopping for clothes is done, I try to buy very little (if anything) before Christmas.

I hope all of these tips help you get your kids ready for school if you’re on a budget! We are so close, you guys! Who else is excited for the first day of school?

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