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#BackToSchool: How to Save Money & Avoid Consumer Debt

Think back to those financial resolutions you made in January. Have you stuck with your plan to reduce your consumer debt and save more?

Now think ahead to the next few months. Before you know it, the cooler weather will be here and it will be time for kids to head back to school. Then, along comes Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas and…well, you see where we’re going with this? Sabotaging your budget on a giant shopping spree every time a holiday or occasion (like back-to-school) comes along can not only result in overspending, it can lead to more consumer debt.

Now is a great time of year to change your spending strategy. Last year, parents expected to spend close to $900 on back-to-school shopping, and more than half of Canadian parents admitted that it put a strain on family finances.

Here are a few money-saving and debt-avoidance strategies you can use when you’re shopping for back-to-school that you can use for holidays and occasions all year long.

5 things to consider before you hit the stores for back to school

  1. Shop with a plan. Take an inventory of all the things your kids already have and see what can be re-used for the coming school year. Heavy duty binders are pretty indestructible so they don’t always need replacing. Focus on things like backpacks, shoes and a few key clothing items.
  2. Go for basics over trends. Staying “on-trend” can be a tiring game that can cost you your sanity and your budget. Instead, opt for good quality, basic clothes for your kids. Then, if it’s in your budget, let them choose one or two reasonably priced trendy pieces or fun accessories that can round out their wardrobes.
  3. Don’t replace tech each year. Whether you’re tech savvy or not, it pays to know the difference between what your kids actually require for school vs. what they want for school. For younger grades, a family PC is likely sufficient but older kids might require a tablet or laptop for mobility in their work. If you want to turn their love of tech into productivity, get them involved in STEM from an early age.
  4. Shop off-season clearance. Again, it’s so much cheaper to buy things like boxed Valentine’s cards on Feb. 15th and tuck them away for next year. The same is true for back-to-school shopping. Spread out your spending over a few months by purchasing a few key items before school starts and taking advantage of clearance and off-season clothes and backpacks in late September and October.
  5. Don’t swipe! Set a budget based on what is actually needed before you start shopping. Shopping can be stressful, especially with kids in tow and it’s easy to overspend. Instead of adding to consumer debt by tapping and swiping your cards, withdraw what you can spend in cash beforehand. Bonus: this can double as a financial literacy lesson for your children.

Keep your shopping affordable all year round by sticking to a budget. That lets you  focus on getting relief from your debt instead of worrying about adding to it. And of course, if you’re experiencing financial strain or your consumer debt payments are going up, not down, take a look at your debt relief options or speak to a professional for more advice.

To stay motivated to crush your financial goals, follow a financial influencer like Barry Choi from Money We Have. His family finance section offers advice for parents who are looking to get their budgets back on track.

How will you avoid racking up additional debt during the back-to-school shopping season? Share your best frugal shopping tips with us via Twitter using the hashtags #BacktoSchool #Budgeting #ParentingAdvice.

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