After months of remote and hybrid learning, most kids will be headed back to the classroom this fall. While this can be an exciting time, it can also put a strain on a family’s budget. A little planning can go a long way to help make back-to-school time a little easier. Here are 10 ideas to help take control of your back-to-school spending.

1. Take inventory of what you already have – Before you start shopping, see what clothes fit your kids and what they have outgrown. Clothes from older children may fit a younger sibling just right. Go through leftover school supplies from last year. Even though they are not too expensive, you may not need to buy crayons, pencils, notebooks, binders, and other supplies now. By investing time in a back-to-school inventory it can save some money in the long run.

2. Create a list and prioritize all back-to-school needs – Know what you plan to buy before you head to the store or hop online. Check your child’s school supply list. Work together with your child(ren) to create a list of the things that are essential and those that are just wants.

3. Set a spending budget – Once you know what you need, create a budget to make it all happen. Figure out the costliest expenses to avoid surprises. Older students may need pricy electronics like a computer or graphing calculator. Focus on finding the best value on your most significant expenses first. If your kids are old enough, consider giving them a set amount of money and let them shop for their own supplies.

4. Shop for value – You can often find great deals on supplies, clothes and more at local dollar stores and other discount retailers. While you will want to check the quality of what you are buying, basic school supplies are as good at these stores as anywhere else. Plus, these retailers often get shipments of name-brand items at prices much lower than other stores.

5. Buy used – Don’t free like you have to buy everything brand new each year. Consignment shops, eBay, yard sales, thrift stores, and Facebook Marketplace are all good options to find great used items to buy. Consider planning a clothes or supply swap with neighbors, friends, and family for even more savings.

6. Check out your school’s prepared supply kits – Many schools offer prepared supply box for each grade. Do some online price checks to see which is the better deal: buying everything individually on your own or getting the box from the school. This may help reduce some back-to-school stress.

7. Download apps from your favorite retailer or shopping website —Many companies send their loyal followers coupon links and advance notice of sales. If you plan to bargain-hunt this year, monitor your favorite stores’ Twitter and Facebook feeds to find deals. Use browser extensions like Capital One Shopper to look for the best price at thousands of online retailers. Or save with online cash-back shopping venue acts like Rakutan or Swagbucks.

8. Take advantage of coupons and rebate apps -- You can save money by “clipping” coupons online or even with retailers print sale ads. You’ll find additional savings with rebate apps on a wide range of merchandise. Look for back-to-school promotions. Some popular rebate apps include Ibotta, Checkout 51, Shopkick and Fetch Rewards.

9. Look for stores that offer price match and price adjustments – Many retailers offer price matches to be competitive. Be sure to check each store’s price match policies and guidelines. There are also plenty of apps to help you save money by comparing prices across different retailers. One popular app is Shop Savvy. Just scan the bar code of the product you’re interested in, and the app tells you if a lower price is available at another store or website.

10. Pick and choose extracurricular activities – Whether it’s sports, music, scouts or dance, the cost of extracurricular activities can really add up. Prioritize with your kids the things they really want to do during the school year and pick the one or two that really matter. Remember, you don’t have to buy all the equipment or supplies now. Watch for sales and keep your eyes open for yard sales and swaps where you may be able to find something used.

Since you are talking with your kids about budgeting and spending for back-to-school, now might be a good time to open a savings and checking account for older kids to help them manage their money. Town & Country has several products just right for kids. Reach out to us anytime to talk about opening an account for your kids. You can connect with us at info@tcfcu.com or 800.649.3495 to schedule time to talk with one of our member service representatives.

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