Back-to-school time seems to sneak up a little faster each year. It often comes on the heels of expensive family vacations, summer camps, and other big expenses. Yet, preparing kids to succeed in school is a must for any family. The trick is to plan, prioritize and get creative. Here are a few tips to budget for back-to-school like a pro.

Make a Plan

Estimate how much you will need to spend between now and the start of school. Include supplies, clothes, uniforms, dues for extracurricular activities, any school fees, and lunch money. If you pay for transportation, be sure to budget for that too, although it will be an ongoing expense and separate from your official back-to-school budget.

Look at how much money you have already set aside for these things. Then look at your available discretionary funds for the month of August. If possible and necessary, shift some of your budget away from entertainment and dinners out this month. Allocate that money to these one-time costs instead. Finally, decide whether you will need to put anything on credit cards, and how that balance figures into your overall strategy for managing credit card debt.

Take Advantage of Tax Holidays and Sales

Several states, including Ohio, offer tax holidays to help with back-to-school expenses. In Ohio, shop Friday, August 2, 2019 at midnight, through Sunday August 4. You can shop without paying sales tax for certain items. These include clothing items that cost $75 or less and school supplies that cost $20 or less. The savings can really add up.

Naturally, many stores offer back-to-school sales. You really have no reason to pay full price for clothing around this time! Compare online before you head out and look for any coupons. It’s also a good time of year to buy laptops and other electronics, as prices tend to come down.

Reuse Whatever You Can

Before you buy anything, take stock of what you already have. You child probably doesn’t need a new backpack or lunch box every year. Some school supplies can last a while, too. If kids have not outgrown their clothes, they may not need a lot of new ones right away. Remember, it’s still summer, so they’ll continue to wear the same clothes for a couple of months anyway, before you need to think about sweaters and coats. You may be able to spread out your budget over a few months.

Swap with Friends

The good news is, everyone with kids is in the same boat. Check with other parents, or host a get-together. If kids have clothes or uniforms that they’ve outgrown, but are still in good condition, pass them along. If a child no longer needs supplies that you bought specifically for one grade level, a younger student can use them now. Also, kids sometimes lose interest in certain sports or hobbies. Their gear can go to a new home and save another family some money. 

The most important thing, as with any kind of spending, is to make a budget and stick to it. Track what you spend, too, so you don’t start from scratch next year. It’s amazing how fast a school year can go by.