It’s that time again! The heat and humidity are still going strong but the lazy days (lazy, ha!) of summer are coming to a close. Whether you’re sending your kids to daycare, pre-k or grade school, getting your family ready for back to school season takes a little preparation and some spending savvy. Here are a few ideas to get you started and some tricks you may not have thought of to help avoid spending too much on supplies.

Prepping Your Kids Emotionally

Children have different reactions to going back to school; for the more social it can be very exciting but for children who are a bit shyer or not as comfortable with change and the prospect of a shake-up in their daily routine can be a bit overwhelming. Space out the announcement that school is starting again soon – and set up a calendar so that they can mark down the days until they’re back to school. For more excited kids this will give them a better grasp of how long they have. For kids who may be a bit more hesitant, you can fill the board with fun landmarks that accompany the school year (shopping, birthdays, extracurriculars) this gives them more tangible things to think about as well as a bit more control, which can be a relief.

Getting Your Family Organized

Start planning this about two weeks out from the first day while you still have (some) time. Schedule doctor’s appointments, check up on immunization requirements, and schedule ahead of time and fill any prescriptions. Around a month out your school should send you all the paperwork and forms you’ll need to fill out for the first day of school, put them somewhere safe and try and give yourself two weeks to get everything together. This is also a great time to get haircuts for kids (and parents too!), depending on age they might need to grow into it a bit. And again, it provides a great marker on the calendar that will remind kids school is coming up.

Clean Out Your Closets

Before school starts is a good time to go through your house and see what items you no longer use. Check on fall and winter clothes for the entire family. Anything your kids have outgrown or you and your partner haven’t worn in the last two seasons – wash and give to your local charity. Most non-profits get clothing donations just as winter is starting which can make distribution difficult. Get a jump on it this year, you’ll be helping out your local community and making more space in your home! This is also a good time to go through the toy chest or play closets and divide out the toys the kids no longer play with. Try and do this exercise with them, it’s a great way to teach them about the importance of giving back.

Shop Til You… Don’t Drop Too Much Money

More and more, parents are asked to send their kids to school with supplies that previously would have been provided. Between the cost of clothes, transportation and after-school activities, this added expense can really add to the back to school tab. But it doesn’t have to. There are some efficient and eco-friendly ways to avoid overspending.

  • Back To School Swap – Plan a back to school party with other parents either in your neighborhood or at your school. Maybe you saw a great deal on highlighters and now you’re stuck with five packs, trade them with a mom or dad who bought too many crayons last year! Have everyone bring extra supplies they have and see if you can redistribute and help ease the back to school spending. If you have children who are of similar age you can also make clothing a part of the swap; that way you’re refreshing your kids’ wardrobe and spending time with your fellow parents. It’s also a great way to get the schoolmates together again before class starts.
  • Everything old is new again – Backpacks and lunchboxes are made to withstand the damage children can do to them but, somehow, we end up buying new items every year. Why? If your child has a backpack that is still holding strong don’t worry about spending extra money on a new one. Instead, try adding patches or tying a bead bracelet to add a little flair.
  • Hit Unconventional Places for Supplies:
    • Ikea – Has a lot of items that can be reimagined for back to school use as well as a series of affordable backpacks and storage items for bedrooms
    • Facebook Marketplace – Take a look, it’s an easy way to find people in your network who are getting rid of perfectly good items that they simply don’t need any longer
    • Price Matching – Stores like Target and Walmart offer price matching on most items. Find something they sell, if you find it somewhere else for cheaper they will match the price.
    • Dollar Stores – I love dollar stores for the unexpected finds and kitsch, but they also offer a lot of practical items for really cheap.

There’s a lot to do to prepare for back to school season, but don’t get overwhelmed! A little planning, collaborating with other parents and research will have you prepared for the new school year without too much stress or too much money.