I just love ‘Back to School’ time, don’t you?! New clothes, new books, new routines and… new friends. The children cannot wait for September because they know it means endless possibilities. But those possibilities can add up. I’m a family of five and with three children in school this season; I have to make sure that I am doing what I can to keep our bank account in check.
So, if you are in the same boat as me … if you are looking at one receipt after the other pile up on your kitchen counter and you want to make sure that all your spending doesn’t throw your budget for a loop, check out these 7 tips:
1. Don’t shop too far in advance: I know you have an urge to purchase your kids’ entire “back to school” wardrobe in one swoop and as soon as possible, but if you do then you will miss out on some major sales that are coming down the pipe. Purchase a few items to get them through a few weeks of school and then wait for the deep discounts to start rolling in. Stores work on cycles and by September, they will start rolling out winter / skiing gear. Fall goods will practically be on clearance. It’s really enticing to grab it all when it’s fresh off the truck, but please step back and wait. Your wallet will thank you!
- Have an organized homework station: Get supplies, buy them once and know where they are when the kids really need them. I can’t tell you how many times I unnecessarily have gone out to purchase glue or rulers or crayons (oh the crayons) throughout the years because my children have misplaced our supplies at home. Big lesson learned. We take the tools out when the kids need them and then we put everything away when homework is over.
- Frequent saving websites and flash sale sites (but only buy what you need): There are plenty of websites online that only post about great deals, like Groupon or Living Social. Whether it’s a new eReader that you can download for free, or whether it’s learning the right time to combine two coupons to get construction paper for free from Target this week – someone is highlight the score. Here’s the secret though: don’t get caught up in the madness! I like to check out a handful of sites about once a week and only take advantage of sales if they absolutely make sense for my family. Otherwise, you will end up spending more money than you should and that completely defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
- Clothing Swap: Everyone I know has at least 2 kids. Most have 3 or 4. Do you know what we all do? We give each other the clothes that our children grow out of. It saves us all money and it’s a GREAT way to extend the lives of our purchases. Truth be told, it’s actually a little running joke around these parts. Whenever a friend sees my daughter in a nice dress, they tell me, “Great choice! Can’t wait to get my hands on that one!!” You live in a community. You might as well act as one.
- Apps are LIFE: My phone is attached to my hip. I can leave my house without my license, my purse and my keys… but if I have my phone I am ok. Nowadays, there are so many amazing apps available that can help you save and budget. My top three are:
- Keyring: Download every single rewards / store card you have at home and never be without a coupon code again!
- Retail Me Not: I don’t make a PURCHASE anywhere without checking this app first.
- Level Money: Powered by Capital One, this free personal finance management app replaces traditional budgeting with real-time analysis of credit and debit transactions across each of a user’s accounts.
- Make saving a priority: The only way you will save money is if you actually make a conscious effort to do so. With 360 Savings from Capital One, the account offers no fees or minimums and earns you interest. In addition, 360 Savings from Capital One includes some great tools that help you meet your savings goals. One of the easiest way is to have funds automatically deposited into your account is with the account’s Automatic Savings Plan. This tool helps you meet your savings goals without any effort. You determine how much and how often and then watch your savings grow.
I used to have a “regular” job before children and saving was much easier back then. When I worked for both Accenture and Ernst and Young, I had a 401K that I used to contribute to automatically and before I received my paycheck. It was effortless. Entrepreneurs and small business owners do not have this luxury and if I’m being honest with you, I have found saving to be difficult without the automation. It took several years for me and my husband to find our groove. But with Capital One 360’s Automatic Savings Plan, you don’t have to worry! You can set yourself up just as you would under any large umbrella. Love that!
While you are at it, consider setting financial goals with My Savings Goals — the only way to get on track is to know where you are heading in the first place! Set a figure (or a monthly percentage) and store it away in a high interest savings account that requires no minimums and has no fees. And yes, you can deposit checks using your phone – bliss!!
So, these are my tips! Do you have any to share?! I would love to hear what you have to say. I’m always up for some more budgeting and money saving ideas!!
* I’ve teamed up with Capital One to talk about Back to School savings.