Five Clever Ways to Save on Back-to-School

clever ways to save on back to school


It was weird to see so many first day of school pictures online this morning, but kids around here go back to school this week. Every time I think about this time of the year, I feel a little sick. Not only does it mean my summer break is over, but it also reminds me of the stress and expense of that enormous shopping list. Even though our school supply list is now minimal, I thought I would share some clever ideas for school savings that I’ve discovered along the way.


  1. If your child wears basic uniform attire that you don’t need to purchase from a specific store, try to hold off from buying too much right now. A lot of stores are going to have uniform items on sale a couple of weeks after school starts, and you’ll be able to stock up for the rest of the year. Pick up a size larger too if your child is growing like a weed. You’ll be glad you did when you need it and have to pay full price later in the year.
  2. Make a list and check prices and availability across a variety of stores. Get your friends involved and share information with them. If you grab the class supply list and three friends, you can each price check one store and compare. Now you are all getting the best deals.
  3. Don’t forget about quality. You are not really saving money if you buy the 5 cent folders that rip to shreds after the first week of school. The same is true for polo shirts that pill or get holes. Don’t go overboard though. My son used to manage to get holes in the knees of pants even though I got him the good Lands End pants with iron knees. Eventually, I just made him wear shorts. Also, I decided not to spend $35 on those pants when he tore them up at the same rate as a less expensive pair.
  4. Look for coupon savings available through apps like Ibotta or Target Cartwheel in addition to the store’s advertised sales.
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If last year’s clothes, shoes, or gear still fits, God bless you. Make use of those things at the start of school and look into getting something new when back-to-school goes on sale. A new backpack also makes a good birthday or Christmas gift.


Bonus Savings Tip: Stay at home. I used to dread back-to-school time. New backpacks, uniforms, sneakers, lunch boxes, loads of expensive school supplies, deposits on back-to-school activities, soccer shoes, tap shoes, ballet shoes, jazz shoes, soccer uniforms, and leotards. Back-to-school could easily run over $1000 for two kids. Plus, the stress of needing to find that exact pencil case or risk being chastised by the teacher. None of that. We are starting our homeschool year next week, and back-to-school has cost me less than $50. I buy things through the year when they are on sale, find a lot of free material online, and choose products that we can use for a long time. I’ve learned to be a lot more efficient over time. I’m not really suggesting that you homeschool just to save money, but it is just one of the many benefits.

christmas gift budgeting

The Gift of Not Gifting

christmas gift budgeting

Christmas is the season of giving, but sometimes giving can become a burden on our wallets. Unfortunately, the burden of giving turns into stress for far too many people. This can be even worse when you have a large family. Growing up, I had a total of seven siblings in my family after both parents remarried. That is a lot of kids and a lot of family gifts! I can only imagine how it would be if we were all still buying gifts for each other and our children. If you are feeling emotionally and financially stressed by your gift list, it might be time to re-think your gifting and suggest a change to the rest of your family for next year.


There are a few ways that families choose to handle the gifting burden. One option is to give to everyone but limit the dollar amount you can spend. Another is to have a sort of Secret Santa where you pick a name from a hat and only buy gifts for that person. Both of these are great ideas that can reduce the financial stress of family Christmas gifts. Plus, everyone still has a gift to put under the tree and open during your celebration.


My problem with this is that it is still a waste of money for everyone involved. How many times have you ever received a really fantastic gift that you loved from one of these gift arrangements? I can tell you that my answer is one time. Yes, one time I received a gift that I actually liked and used. Every other time? Well, there are gloves, hats, scarves, slippers, socks, and jewelry that I never wore and only end up throwing out or giving away. I am literally throwing someone’s money away, and I hate that. Chances are that no matter how much I try to find the right gift, my family members are doing the same thing with my gift to them. Let’s stop the madness this year!


Consider the gift of not gifting next year. What is that? You and your family members decide that you are not buying each other any gifts next year. (Note: I think this really applies best for adult family members. Kids still like to get gifts, and it is part of the holiday magic.) Everyone saves the money and stress of buying Christmas gifts. Take the money you would have spent and buy a nice gift for yourself instead. Use the money to pay down some debt or build your children’s college savings accounts. Donate the money to a favorite charity in your family’s honor. There are so many better ways to give by not gifting at all next Christmas.


What’s the worst gift you ever received from a family member?

christmas personal finance lessons

Lessons in Personal Finance for Children During the Holiday Season


christmas personal finance lessons




Christmas is a great time to teach your children some important lessons about money and personal finance. A hidden benefit to teaching your children these lessons is reinforcing them for yourself as well. Try some of these activities with children of all ages this season.


Christmas shopping provides a wonderful opportunity to practice budgeting. Share your family gift budget with your children and allow them to help you make a gift shopping list that stays within the budget. While you are shopping, let your children keep a running total of your purchases to practice math while keeping you accountable for sticking to your budget. Consider giving your children a gift allowance of their own money to spend on gifts for siblings. Any activity you can provide that involves managing money and budgeting is an opportunity for applied learning.


While talking about budgeting, include the practice of saving and giving in your discussion. One of the best experiences for my children has been choosing Angel Tree children every year. We started a tradition of letting each of our children pick a child off the tree who was about their age. I set a gift budget for each child, and they had to help pick out gifts within that budget. My children learned about budgeting because they had to weigh the cost of each item they chose. They learned lessons about the tradeoff between one big gift or many small gifts. Most importantly, they learned how blessed they are and that the bigger joy during Christmas comes from giving rather than receiving.


If you are a homeschool mom teaching elementary and middle school children, I also recommend incorporating some of these lessons into your math studies. For those looking for a ready-made lesson, try one of these:

Christmas Math: Grades 4-6

Christmas Measurement and Money: Grades 3-6

Christmas Budgeting: Grades 4-6



How do you teach your children about money, budgeting, and giving during the holiday season?