With summer soon coming to an end, it's time for that yearly ritual: back-to-school shopping.
While most parents look forward to the beginning of a new school year and getting their children back into a routine, few enjoy (and some even dread) braving the crowds and chaos to buy school supplies or new clothes.
Standing in long lines and hunting for the best deals can be draining — both physically and financially. That's why it's important to have a game plan, or more importantly, a financial game plan, to ensure your back-to-school shopping goes off without a hitch.
Here are a few ways to help keep you from losing your mind — and your money — during your next back-to-school shopping trip.
1. Make a list.
As with most things in life, preparation is key. Creating a list before tackling your back-to-school shopping can help you stay focused, cut down on shopping time, and prevent you from making impulse buys. Before heading out, be sure to write down everything you plan to purchase and research the retail stores where you can find them. That way, you can avoid wasting time searching for the items while in the store and keep yourself from making several trips to the same store for items you've forgotten.
If your children are old enough, include them in the planning process as well. Going over the supply list together can help them develop strong organizational skills that will last for years to come.
2. Stick to the basics.
Don't let your back-to-school shopping become a case of keeping up with the Joneses. It's important to only purchase items your kids need (school supplies and updated wardrobe) rather than things they simply want (a new tablet or the latest video game). You may break a few hearts in your household, but you'll be sparing your bank account unnecessary hits.
3. Look for deals.
Everybody loves a bargain — especially when it's for items already on your shopping list. Before heading out, scan the paper or go online to find the current back-to-school sales and map out your attack plan. Make sure to keep a lookout for coupons to maximize your saving potential. August is a great month for back-to-school items such as laptops, while clothes see a significant drop in price in October, so plan accordingly. If you can hold off for certain items until a bigger sale comes along, it may be worth it.
Many states offer tax-free weeks leading up to the start of school, which is another great way to save when shopping for school supplies. It's also a great time to buy and stash a holiday gift or two. You'll be able to get the most bang for your buck.
4. Pay with cash.
It's easy to get carried away with spending when you're swiping your credit card left and right. That's why the best way to stay on budget during a shopping excursion is to use cash for your purchases. Sure, it may seem a bit archaic, but it will help you keep track of your spending. Before heading out to the stores, decide how much you're willing to spend. Once the cash has run out, commit to putting the brakes on your shopping spree.
This post is sponsored by USAA.
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