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School Supplies on a Budget

School supplies are another necessary item for kids going back to school this fall. Just like last week’s post on school clothing, it’s important to avoid credit card debt by sticking to a budget. Prepare your kids for the year ahead with these tips for getting school supplies on a budget.

Here's our credit counseling strategy for buying school supplies on a budget.

Here’s our credit counseling strategy for buying school supplies on a budget.

School Supplies on a Budget- No Credit Card Debt

Budgeting for back to school supplies may not be as expensive as clothing, but it’s still a periodic expense that needs to be accounted for in the budget. If you think a few notebooks and pencils won’t add up, think again! Underestimating costs is one way to end up with more consumer debt than you can handle each month.

By setting aside a little money each month or just a few months before August, you will be ready with cash to make your purchases. So, what does that look like when buying school supplies?

Last year, the average cost of school supplies was $100. Let’s use this figure to calculate how much you will need to set aside in your budget to cover the cost (amounts rounded up) so there will be no need to eliminate debt later on.

$100/3 months of saving= $34/month

$100/5 months of savings= $20/month

$100/8 months of savings= $13/month

If you start saving 8 months ahead of time, it’s less than$15 a month! Where could you save $15- groceries, entertainment, dining out…?

Last Minute Shopping Tips to Eliminate Credit Card Debt

Here are a few ways to successfully back to school shop without going into debt.

  • Coupons. Between newspapers, flyers, apps and other online options, there are coupons available for most things.
  • Mix and match old and new supplies. Are there any viable supplies from last year? Start there and cross things off the list.
  • Buy items that will last. Buy backpacks that won’t go out of style if your kids stops watching a certain TV show. You can also purchase binders that only needed to be restocked with lined paper instead of buying entire notebooks.
  • Wait to shop for bigger sales. Stores will want to get their merchandise out towards the end of August or September. Rather than shopping early in the summer or even in August, wait to get better deals. Labor Day is another big sale weekend to wait for.
  • Brown paper bags. A tried and true method to cover textbooks comes from brown paper bags from the grocery store. It’s free and fun to decorate.
  • Tax free holidays. Many states over tax free shopping days in August to help families make their back to school purchases.

Preparing your kids for school doesn’t have to mean buying all brand new supplies and then having to pay down credit card debt. If they want a fancier backpack, encourage them to save for it during the year. Help your kids learn more about budgeting by explaining it to them.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Michelle is a regular contributor to Talking Cents. She has taken several financial courses on debt management and is ready to circulate what she has learned from them as well as lessons from her own life- family to DIY projects to student loan debt.

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