Back to School Shopping Tips

It is that time of year again.   The annual back to school shopping season has begun and without warning, shopping for the kids can easily become a budget buster if you’re not careful.  At Strong Tower Consulting, we took the time to research some practical back to school shopping tips.

1.  Plan your trip in advance.  When you plan out what you are going to buy before going shopping, this will help in not making unnecessary purchases.  One of the key items is to buy needs instead of wants.  One website reported that teachers prefer that students only have what they need and not the latest gadgets that will be distracting in class.  The other main key is to stick to what you are going to buy.

2.  Cash is King!  Studies show when purchases are made with plastic instead of cash, consumers will spend 12-18% more.  Using cash it is another tool to help you stay within your budget.

3.  Do not wait until the last minute!  A lot of us can be great procrastinators and that can cause a lot of additional stress when school shopping.  Set out a specific date and time for school shopping and give yourself a few week cushion.  Spending will more likely stay under control when you have more time to look for bargains and you aren’t rushed to buy everything at once.

4.  Bring your children.  Have your children try on their back to school clothes at the store.  This will prevent extra trips back and forth.  Also, this gives them the opportunity to pick out their own backpack and other supplies.

5.  Buy in bulk.  Everyone knows when you buy in bulk you purchase items at a discount, but have you thought of applying this to school supplies?  This should help you for when you need to reload your children’s supplies half way through the year and you may be able to use the following year.

6.  Organize.  Make it a priority this year to organize all of your school supplies.  Doing this you may be able to save future shopping trips throughout the year and possibly even for the next school year.

7.  Reuse.  Anything you have left over from previous years go ahead and use it again.  Usually, it is not worth having to buy it all over again anyway.

8.  Back to school swaps.  Have you ever thought about swapping clothes and school supplies that you are not using with a mom that has children that can benefit from what you have?  Maybe that same mom has some things that your children could use.  This is a great idea to have mother’s bond together in the name of house hold economics.

9.  Consignment and thrift stores.  If you are looking for a place to buy great clothes that will not bust your budget, there is nothing wrong with getting your children some clothes at these stores.

10.  Craigslist & Freecycle.  These are great places to find deals and maybe even some free items.  The lowest price out there is FREE!

We hope utilizing these helpful tips will have positive results in your back to school shopping this year.  If you know of great back to school shopping tips send me anemail.

Budgeting 101

Budgeting is one of those financial words that most of us would rather just delete from our vocabulary.  In fact, most of you are probably having chills running down your spine as you are reading this article.

A budget is nothing more than a game plan.  Think about it for a moment.  Have you ever played or watched organized sports?  Every experienced coach had a game plan on how they were going to execute their strategy on the playing field. If you think about it, people who are winning in any area of life have established goals and plans to be successful.  Why do so many people believe that they can win with money without a plan?

A budget it is your specific game plan on how you are going to win with your money each month.  The first thing you need to know is that all of your income minus all of your expenses must equal zero (called a “zero based budget”).  Plan a budget each month, before the month begins.  Income includes every dollar that you foresee coming through your door such as paychecks, side business money, garage sales, gifts and etc.  Expenses not only include monthly bills, but also include food, clothing, gas, giving and anything else you plan to spend money on.  If your expenses are more than your income you have one of two options:  lower some expenses or raise your income.  If you have money left over you need to spend it on paper and preferably apply it to the baby step that you are on.

There are four steps that need to be completed for your budgeting process to work effectively.

  1. Gather information.  Find out when all of the bills are due and how much you owe this month.
  2. Input the data.  Either on an excel spreadsheet or piece of paper write out all of the expenses you expect to have this month.
  3. Budget Committee Meeting.  Both spouses must review the budget and agree to the budget.  If one of you disagrees with what is in the budget then this is your opportunity to speak up and make your voice be heard.  The budget is considered final when both spouses agree on the budget.
  4. Pay your expenses.  This is where you live out your budget.  Simply pay the bills and expenses as you have written it down.

If you are single it is highly recommended that you find someone to be your accountability partner.  This person can be a parent or family member, a pastor, or a friend.  Whoever it is, it needs to be someone that has old fashioned values and is not afraid to tell you “no” when you’re tempted to spend unwisely and encourage you when you are on the right track.

The good news is that budgeting is really not that scary, in fact when done right; it can have a lot of positive results.  The bad news is if you do not do a budget, you will have no idea where your money went.  A budget simply tells your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.

At the end of the day, if you follow your game plan, you will not only begin to win with your money, but you will also notice that the level of communication between you and your spouse will be better than it ever has.  Next month we will share more helpful budgeting tips.

Justin Bennett

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