Wednesday, August 17, 2011

25 Ways to Send Your Kids Back to School on the Cheap

The mall was a madhouse last weekend and it only took a few minutes to dawn on me that it was already time for kids to get ready to go back to school.  Where did the summer go? It went by so quickly!  Here's a bunch of ways to get your kids off to school this fall without breaking the bank:
  1. Buy school supplies now while they are on sale.  In fact, get enough school supplies to last them for the entire year instead of paying top dollar to replenish their supplies later in the school year.
  2. Start school shopping for clothes at garage sales and thrift stores then work your way up to discounters (Ross, Marshalls, Walmart, and TJ Maxx) then hit the mall.  Hopefully by the time you get to the mall, most of your shopping will be completed.
  3. Sign up for free or reduced school breakfasts and lunches if you qualify.
  4. Always make your kids a simple, healthy breakfast before they leave for school in the morning if they don't eat breakfast at school--they will be more likely to pay attention in class.
  5. Review cell phone plans.  My sister pays $100 per kid for their cell phone plan which is shockingly high IMHO.  My prepaid plan costs only $30 per month.  Look at all of your options and find the cheapest plan based on current use (ie: some kids text only so look for a plan with fewer calling minutes and more texting minutes).
  6. If you are having a rough time financially, look around at community programs to see if you can get free backpacks/haircuts/school supplies/vaccinations/etc for your kids.  There are a half dozen programs in our area that are offering these things to get kids ready to go back to school.
  7. If your kids don't qualify for free or reduced school lunch (or you question how healthy these lunches are) get your kids in the habit of taking their lunch from home.
  8. When our boys were in school, we would go to Walmart and buy 24 pair of the exact same socks (black, boy's athletic socks) this way we never spent time hunting for matches for their socks in the morning because they all matched!
  9. Get your kids into a routine and stick with it.  When kids automatically (kind of) do homework every day after school, automatically (kind of) go to sleep at the same time each evening, and wake up automatically (kind of) each morning, the routine eventually becomes a habit.
  10. Start reading with your kids before they go back to school--it gets them into the rhythm of learning before the school doors even open (get free books from the library of course).
  11. Have your kids walk to school (in a group, of course) if at all possible.  I know many parents who will drive their kids two or three blocks to school when it is cheaper (and healthier!) for their kids to walk.
  12. Better yet, walk with them if you can.  It will improve your health as well.
  13. Consider a babysitting co-op if you and your neighbors have kids roughly the same age.  If each parent takes a day to watch the kids before and after school and you have five parents willing to do this, you will end up with free before and after school care for your kids.
  14. Make sure you have after school snacks ready for your kids when they get home.  Preferably something healthy and simple to make (this saves going through the drive-thru on the way home because everyone is starving).  Things like popcorn, vegetables and hummus, cheese and crackers, etc are inexpensive and easy to serve.
  15. Encourage your kids to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities.  Yes, there is some added expense, but busy kids are kids that don't have time to get into trouble (definitely a more expensive proposition).  It also develops life-long skills and looks good on college applications.
  16. Look for hand-me-downs.  Whether it is clothes or sports equipment or expensive school supplies such as graphing calculators, ask around to see if friends or relatives with older kids could provide these to you at little or no cost.  Of course you will want to return the favor by sending things your kids no longer need to those who could use the items.
  17. Don't forget Freecycle, eBay, and CraigsList where you can find cheaper-than-retail versions of everything from cell phones to sports equipment to clothes.
  18. When clothes shopping, look at summer clearance items that can be used into the fall.  Flip flops, tank tops, and shorts are often on sale now but these items seem to be year-round apparel for teens in our area.
  19. Encourage your kids to work and split the cost with you for items they want but don't need (iPad, etc).  Obviously you don't want them to work so much it interferes with school but small jobs on the weekends can bring in some cash.  I'm absolutely shocked at the huge number of kids who graduate from college then complain that they can't get a job because they have absolutely zero work experience!  There's no reason kids can't learn how to make a bit of their own money.
  20. Buy for next year.  When the kids were young and growing I would often shop for super duper clearance items that were too big for them; I would buy the item then bring it out at a later date and surprise them with new clothes throughout the year.
  21. Seek (free) help with homework.  The kids surpassed my math skills around middle school.  For those homework problems that you can't figure out, find free home work help online here.  Also, our local library has a free homework help section on their website.  Plus you can Google just about anything these days.
  22. Avoid high legal fees (and the whole legal process!) by keeping your kids occupied and supervised.  Many of the kids I saw come through the juvenile justice system were there (aside from having lousy parents) because they were left bored and unsupervised and then one of their other bored and unsupervised friends would say "hey let's go do (fill in the blank with something illegal)."
  23. Apply for scholarships NOW.  Apply for every one that your kid would even remotely qualify for.  A free higher education is a very good thing.
  24. Participate in your kid's school life as much as possible.  Kids with parents who are involved in their school life (by volunteering, helping to coach a sports team, helping to chaperon a dance, etc) often have kids who are more successful.  You don't want to be your kid's BFF but you do want to be connected.
  25. Another reason to keep your kids busy with activities--when you limit their exposure to TV and other advertising, you will be able to save money.  I was shocked at the amount of advertising kids see in only one cartoon program when I watched TV with my nieces a few months ago.  Of course after they saw this they immediately NEEDED the item.  Eekkk.


  1. The tips giving here is very useful for any family...these tips are helpful for a kids sending him to the school...

  2. Yeah... i agree with above comment... its very useful tips for parents when they send their baby first time in school.

  3. Hey guys I like to visit on this site very much.Please keep it up.

  4. I would like to join your blog anyway so please continue sharing with us.

  5. This post is very important part of life.I really like this post.