Don’t look at the calendar now, but it will soon be time for back-to-school shopping. Back-to-school shopping is as much of a rite of passage for many families as it is big business. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that families spent over $75 billion on items in 2016, related to going back to school or college.
That equates to a lot of money for many families. If you have a student going back to school soon, you may be tempted simply to get through the season without any surprises. However, when done with a keen eye, it can be a great way to finish the financial year off right and get back on track.
The Importance of Comparison Shopping
Many shoppers love to compare prices to save money. For example, the NRF reports that parents select from at least 12 different sources to purchase supplies and clothing to find the best possible price.
This does take time to do, of course, but by comparing prices, you lessen the impact on your wallet – especially when you plan it out. “Save money on back-to-school shopping by doing a little bit every now and then instead of in one huge, expensive day every year. Throughout the year, look for items your kids will like and wait for them to go on sale,” says Chris Brantner, founder of BillGeeks. If you apply that same philosophy to other services you need, it can be a great way to save money.
Start Tracking Your Expenses
As you keep track of the amount you spend for your child to get back to school consider what that tracking provides you – information. Information, especially when it comes to our finances, creates power to manage your money better.
There are many tools and apps available to help you track your spending, from Mint to Personal Capital. Even a simple spreadsheet can help you track your spending. This helps you see where your money goes and prepare for future events. Jennifer McDermott, Consumer Advocate for Finder.com, ties this back to the back-to-school season, “The back-to-school season isn’t a surprise, we know every year when it will roll around.” When you track your expenses, you get to prepare and handle large expenses in stride.
Analyze Your Debt
Many families deal with paying off debt, from credit cards to car payments. Carrying high-interest debt will hold you back from your goals, as it keeps you from making significant financial headway.
If you don’t know how you will pay for back-to-school needs this year, use it as an opportunity to take a serious look at your debt. Examine the rates you’re paying and see if there’s any way you can consolidate or refinance that debt. Lowering your rates even by a few points can be a great way to pay off your debt quicker.
Find A Way to Earn More
If you or your spouse don’t have a full-time job, you may find that you have extra time on your hands once your child starts back to school. This can be a great opportunity to bring in additional income if you have unmet goals.
Making extra money can range from taking on extra tasks at a day job to starting a part-time job or side hustle. There are more opportunities than ever to earn income on the side, like driving for a ridesharing service or finding work online. Just make sure to be discerning in selecting an opportunity that matches your skill and desire to earn more.
Taking Advantage of a Child Leaving for College
Having a child leave for college for the first time is a life-changing experience. They get to start a new chapter in their lives, and you may find there are numerous possibilities that open up for you and your spouse, such as:
- Freeing up more time around the house
- Possible money saving opportunities like lower grocery and utility bills, to name a few
- Extra room in your house
As you look at your finances after your child leaves home, look to take advantage of the increased savings. Those savings can be used to increase debt payments, or retirement savings, pay off your mortgage or beef up your emergency fund. Find the area that has the most pressing need and throw your increased savings at it to speed up reaching your goal.
Back-to-school season is an exciting time for children. It can also be a special time for your family to get back on track financially.