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How to save money during back-to-school

It’s back to school time! This can be one of the most stressful times of year for parents, students, and teachers. The costs of supplies alone are often enough to overwhelm you, so we created a list of 5 ways to help you manage your money and save a little extra during this season. Everyone’s life is a little different so you may want to adjust it to fit your needs.

1. Create a budget and stick to it.

Making a budget is the easy part. Sticking to it is the hard part. To build your budget, add up all the money you have coming in like grants, loans, and paychecks. Be sure to note what the frequency is of each. Then you’ll add up all your expenses like tuition, housing, school supplies, and other bills. Next, you’ll subtract your expense amount from your income amount. You can use this number to help guide where you allocate your money to each month. As I always advise, remember to allow yourself a little fun money so you don’t feel too restricted. There are a ton of worksheets online if you need or want more detailed instructions.

2. Buy, swap, and sell school supplies and books.

For college students, used books and digital versions can be easily found online and at a steep discount. This isn’t the case with every book you’ll need, so save when and where you can with supplies. Facebook Marketplace or local online swap groups are a great resource for other items you may need like furniture, small appliances, and if you’re lucky there’s a local coupon lady with a hoard of brand-new school supplies for cheap. Don’t hate the couponer, hate the system that makes them buy 9 packs of highlighters to save 5 bucks. Also, to the coupon ladies- if you need help with your taxes, we are available to help. A great idea is to also check out what you have around the house already. Do you have the leftover extra notebooks from last year stored away in the closet or an unopened pack of pencils in the junk drawer?

3. Make your meals at home as often as possible.

Pass on going out to dinner too often but not every single time or you’ll get bitter about your budget, and we don’t want that. You can also pack a snack or lunch to take with you during the day to help curb your hunger and impulse food purchases. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You’re busy. Grab an apple and a protein bar, if all else fails. Also, be sure you’re eating filling and nutrient dense at mealtimes to help keep you from splurging on that overpriced candy bar in the vending machine or the chicken nuggets that smell especially tasty as you walk through the Student Union after class. If you have school-age children and have to pack their lunches, skip the bougie pre-made cheese, meat and crackers pack for a DIY version where the ingredients are going to go so much farther. As long as there is still a little treat included, most kids won’t notice or care.

4. Always ask for student discounts.

If you’re in a college town, then nearly every business already has one in place. Not all discounts are created equally so it may serve to call around for pricing before heading out to shop. You can find restaurants, clothing retailers, and general shopping centers that offer discounts to local students. Your school website may have a list as well to help guide you to your savings. Remember to keep your student i.d. on you so that you can redeem those discounts when you are making a purchase. It isn’t awkward to ask if they have a student discount, but it is awkward to spend extra cash that you don’t have to because you didn’t even ask. If you’re a parent, it is always a good idea to ask what specials or discounts are being honored while you’re shopping. Some managers will happily offer you a deal or direct you to a clearance area you might otherwise overlook.

5. Get creative with entertainment.

Entertainment is a great place to make budget cuts. Instead of dropping a chunk of change on a big night out, invite your friends over for a movie/game night, visit free local events, or host a date at the museum or park (super cute idea, right?). These activities are also great if you have little ones. Let them invite a friend and head to the park for a playdate or have a family movie night and help them build a pillow fort in the living room. If you are struggling to think outside the box, a quick online search will bring up great ideas. We recently posted our own list of budget-friendly ways to have fun. Not to parrot myself, but don’t make yourself miserable by not leaving any funds at all for fun. If you hate living within your budget, then it’s not going to work for you.

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