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Building a Back-to-School Budget

With a new school year approaching, now is the perfect time to talk about school supplies. Before you turn in your summer fun for a shopping run, create a back-to-school budget. Using a budget can help you get the most for your money as well as lessen your back-to-school stress. In this blog, we’ll cover some information about back-to-school spending, discuss how to shop for supplies and where to get some financial help if you need it.

Back-to-School Statistics

Every year parents, guardians and others spend money on school essentials, including classroom materials, clothing, shoes and gear. Today’s inflation is having an impact on this buying, forcing them to further stretch their hard-earned dollars.

According to EMarketer, 69% of back-to-school shoppers will search for ways to save money via coupons, other discounts and deals. This is a 10% increase compared to last year. Also, the cost of back-to-school essentials is expected to increase by 6.8% from 2023, making it more expensive for parents.

Back-to-School Budget

To cope with these rising costs, plan to create a budget for each student who you’ll be shopping for, listing all the required and essential items to buy. At the elementary school level, you can typically find a list of supplies needed for specific classrooms and teachers. Don’t forget to include any activity fees for the year, according to USA Today.

Identifying all of your back-to-school expenses will let you prioritize your purchases. According to USA Today, you could also use this opportunity to teach your children about money and budgeting, as well as the importance of saving money for a specific goal.

Shop Retail or Online?

Once you have a budget set and a shopping list ready, determine where you can find the best prices. You can start with online searches to see if a retail store near you has the items you need or if an online retailer is better. Compare prices to create your shopping strategy.

With online shopping, the big downfalls are the shipping costs and time. According to EMarketer, 61% of parents plan to shop online before the school year starts. This could be attributed to online retailers such as Amazon holding summer sales that are too good to pass up. Along with a great deal, online retailers may offer free shipping, which means you save money, as well as time.

Alternatively, shopping at a local retailer lets you examine your items before you buy, ensuring you are getting exactly what you want. This is especially important if you are short on time and cannot wait for items purchased online to be exchanged or returned.

Ways to Pay

There are several ways to pay for back-to-school supplies if you don’t have the funds on hand. These options include using store credit, credit cards, a personal loan and even buy now, pay later programs. Each option has its pros and cons:

  • Store Credit: Some retailers offer their own credit card so shoppers can take advantage of in-store discounts and reward programs that save you money, according to FoxBusiness. For example, Kohl’s offers its cardholders additional discounts when they use store credit. Keep in mind that you will need to pay off any existing balance within that statement cycle if you want to avoid the high interest rates which typically come with store credit cards.
  • Credit Card/Personal Loan: A credit card or personal loan are useful alternatives to pay for back-to-school expenses. If you have a trusted financial institution and good credit, you may be able to get a low-rate credit card that saves you money with your purchases. Again, you will have to pay off any existing balance quickly or incur interest charges.

    With a personal loan, you can borrow the exact amount needed so you stay on budget. A personal loan also has a set term and interest rate, making it easier for you to budget your payments.
  • Buy Now, Pay Later: Buy now, pay later options are offered by select online retailers to give consumers a credit option that lets them get the items now and pay for them later. This can be a good way to borrow for back-to-school shopping if you pay off the balance on time. But if you miss a payment, you could face additional fees that make this type of financing costly. Review the disclosures for these programs to be sure you understand the payment terms.

As mentioned, saving money ahead of time is a good way to budget for back-to-school shopping so you avoid using credit and going into debt. Consider an account where you can keep your money separate from other funds.

How can TCU help?

Travis Credit Union can help you plan better as well as save for back-to-school shopping with our various savings, money market and certificate accounts. We also offer personal loans and credit cards that can help, and you can check all of your offers quickly without affecting your credit.

Trust Travis to help you get through the summer season and the rest of the year. Visit us at or visit a branch to learn what TCU can do for you.

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