Americans are expected to spend $75.8 billion on back-to-school purchases this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That turns out to be over $600 per family on average. If that sounds high to you, consider the following suggestions for keeping your back-to-school shopping below average.

Take Stock of What You Already May Have

Check your home office supplies or any stash of school items you’ve picked up for a great deal at some point or another. The same goes for clothing – find out what your child already has, including any packed away clothes from an older sibling, or cousin, for example. Then make a list of what supplies and clothes each child needs. Remember that you don’t need to do all the clothes shopping right away. There may be better deals on clothes after the back-to-school rush is over.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Don’t be afraid to reuse school supplies that came home in fine shape this past spring. A good backpack should last several years, and it makes sense to reuse things like scissors and rulers, as well as colored pencils or markers that only got a little use the previous year.  

Learn How to Say “No” – or Consider Leaving the Kids at Home

You know yourself well enough to know how resolute you’ll remain when your child is pleading with you to buy the over-priced lunch bag or backpack with a favorite character on it. If you do have your child along, explain why you make the shopping choices you do. A life lesson about sticking to a budget could serve them well for years to come.  

Do Your Shopping Homework

Check the store ads – either from the paper or online – before you leave home. Consider following your favorite stores on social media to stay current on sale prices. Look for the best deals on more expensive items and worry less about things like crayons or pencils, which may account for only a small fraction of your total back-to-school spending. Make the store with the best deal on one or more bigger items your first stop.  

Involve Your Children in Building a Budget

As your kids approach the later elementary years or beyond, consider turning the decision making over to them. Tell them how much you’re willing to spend on back-to-school shopping and let them choose how to spend it, provided they don’t neglect any of the essentials. Tell them if they come in under budget they get to keep what they didn’t spend yet.

Save Your Receipts

Expenses for educational materials required for the normal school day qualify for a Minnesota tax credit. That includes calculators needed for math class, tennis shoes for gym class and musical instruments for band class. Consult your tax adviser or the Minnesota Revenue website for complete details on qualifying expenses for the K-12 education credit and subtraction.


By Anita Dualeh