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July 11, 2023

Summer break is winding down. The kids are still having a blast, but you’re shifting gears to focus on back-to-school shopping. And for a good reason - inflation is driving up prices on consumer goods, and you want to get a head start. Here are some tips to prepare your finances for the upcoming shopping season. 

How to create a back-to-school shopping budget

How much do you need to cover back-to-school expenses? Make a shopping budget to keep your spending in check and avoid debt. A budget will help you better prepare your finances and avoid any surprises.

To create a back-to-school shopping budget:

  • Make a list of everything your child needs. Categorize each item as a need or want so you’ll know what to prioritize. 
  • Take inventory of what you already have. Remove the items from your list that you already have. 
  • Set a spending limit. Review your household budget to determine how much you can afford to spend.
  • Trim your list. Revisit your list and cut any non-necessities. You can always revisit these items once the back-to-school shopping frenzy ends. 

Back-to-school money-saving strategies

Once you have your shopping list, remember these tips to maximize your cost savings.


Most schools provide supply lists before the start of the school year to give parents ample time to prepare. Here’s how to get even more out of your budget when shopping for school supplies: 

  • Shop for deals and discounts. If you haven’t noticed, back-to-school sales are beginning to surface. Compare sales ads to find the best deals, and use coupons if you have them handy. 
  • Buy in bulk. Buy large quantities of items you’ll need throughout the school year to save money. These include hand sanitizer, facial tissue, paper, pencils, crayons, erasers, glue, and markers. 
  • Take advantage of price matching. Optimize your savings by taking advantage of price-matching policies offered by retailers. You can consolidate your shopping trips while ensuring that you get the best price possible, allowing you to save money.

Apparel and footwear

School supplies aren’t the only important items on your shopping list. Apparel and footwear may also be a priority and can take up much of your budget. Here are some tips to help you save in this category: 

  • Visit outlet malls. If you live near an outlet mall, check out their offerings. You’ll likely find high-quality brand-name clothes and shoes at steeply discounted prices. 
  • Shop at consignment and thrift stores. Buying second-hand is another way to save big on clothes and shoes. Most items are gently used and available at a very good price. (Bonus tip: You could earn money or swap old items in good condition that your child no longer wears for new items). 
  • Buy out-of-season. This is a tried-and-tested strategy that works like a charm for back-to-school shopping. So, don’t wait until the chilly fall and winter months arrive to purchase your child's new winter coat or boots. Get these items now to take advantage of significant discounts. And when the cold weather does arrive, enjoy bargains on summer and spring apparel.


Does your child’s school supply list include laptops, software, or other technology? You can save a fortune using these cost-cutting strategies: 

  • Buy refurbished or older models. Buying new isn’t always necessary, especially if you want to save money. You can get a high-quality laptop or graphic calculator for half the price you’d pay if you bought it new.
  • Student discounts. Ask the retailer about student discounts. Even if it’s only 10 percent, you still keep a nice amount of your hard-earned money in your pocket. 

Other expenses

Make sure to account for other expenses that could arise in the upcoming school year, like field trips, extracurricular activities, or club fees. Treat these expenses as part of your overall budget and plan accordingly. Set aside a certain amount each month to help cover these costs. Also, consider whether any activities or events can be postponed or skipped to save money.

The bottom line

You can confidently navigate the back-to-school season without breaking the bank. Start by clearly understanding your finances and setting a realistic budget.

Do you need guidance on managing your money and creating a spending plan that works? Request free financial coaching. A member of the HawaiiUSA team will reach out to discuss your concerns and help you devise a plan of action.