SMART SPENDER>TIPID TIPS
Back to School, Back to Spending
Learn smart ways to save on school supplies
By Ruth Manimtim-Floresca
Every year, before summer comes to an end, grumblings can be heard from parents about increases in tuition as well as the rising costs of school supplies. Since we are still very much affected by the global economic crisis, it is no longer surprising that more students continue to be transferred to public schools as more families cannot sustain the astronomical payments in private schools anymore.
Ease some of your financial worries by working out a budget that won’t leave you broke before another school year starts. Here are sound school spending tips you can do not only during the summer but also throughout the year.
1. Do an inventory at home
Before heading out to the malls and school supplies stores, gather all your child’s old school items from last year that he wasn’t able to use or are still useful. Rulers, pencil cases, calculators, backpacks, and other durable stuff need not be replaced every year. If they remained in good shape, your child can reuse them this year.
Check too your desk drawer for corporate giveaways that you may have already forgotten such as pens and pencils that you can add to your child’s supplies.
2. Make a list
Find out what your child really needs. As early as possible, ask the school for the list of official requirements for your child’s grade level. Double check this list and tick off those you already have. Make sure you list down everything your child will need for the school year before you hit the stores.
Plan to buy in bulk (that means a reasonable amount, not panic-buying quantities) for items such as notebooks, a box or two of pencils, a ream of bond paper, etc. Stocking up on extras will prevent you from making time-consuming, not to mention more expensive, trips to the store throughout the whole school year just to buy a pad of paper here or five pieces of art paper there. After all, any leftovers at the end of the year can still be used for next year or for your child’s summer activities.
A quick reminder: Just like in grocery shopping tips, remember to stick to your list and your allotted budget! Don’t be pressured with the “Buy me, buy me!” syndrome. Make school supply shopping a learning opportunity to teach an older kid about budgeting and making compromises (e.g. “If you want this backpack so much, we have to buy a less expensive lunchbox.”).
3. Buy supplies in one go
Save time and gas expenses by choosing the nearest store that offers items at reasonable prices. If you are going to a mall close by, find one or two stores where you can get the best value for your money.
Contrary to what some parents believe, buying from Divisoria is not always a wise move. If you live far from the well-known shopping haven, compute first how much you’ll be spending on gas or fares and how much money you might save from the things you plan to buy. Include travel time in your equation. Then ask yourself, “Is it really worth it?”
4. Learn to canvass prices wisely
Every mall has various stores where you can buy school supplies from. Since you’re already in one location and only need to hop from one store to the other, check out prices between stores especially for big ticket items such as shoes, bags and textbooks. A few pesos’ difference here and there still leaves you with more money in your wallet.
Compare brands. High end notebooks can go as much as P30.00 – P50.00 each as compared to the generic and lesser-known names priced at P10.00 – P15.00 apiece. When you multiply the difference by ten notebooks per child, imagine the savings you can get. Be firm and explain to your child that the sky will not fall if he can’t have the expensive notebooks.
Do some math. Compute per piece costs of items that are also offered in bulk packaging. A pack of three pad papers sold at P32.00 is definitely cheaper than buying individual pieces at P12.00 each.
5. Opt for good quality big-ticket items
In terms of bags and shoes, investing in branded items from reputable companies may be your wisest bet. Without a doubt, it is more cost-effective to buy an expensive but longwearing pair of shoes or a higher-priced backpack that would last your child for the whole year or more than to buy two or more pairs of low-quality and inexpensive shoes or more than one bag during the same time frame.
Ask the bag company you are buying from if they offer warranties or parts replacement. There are some that do like Illustrazio where my husband and I have been buying our kids’ bags for the past three years.
6. Don’t forget to flash those store rewards cards
Use your loyalty card to earn points on school supply purchases. Some stores even give away freebies when you reach a certain minimum purchase price. If you have already accumulated a substantial amount on your card balance, use the rebate to buy some of your child’s needed items.
7. Time your shopping well
Buy school supplies by the middle of summer or earlier. Hasty shopping can sometimes force parents to give up buying suddenly-out-of-stock items or forego the endless lines at the cashier counters, with thoughts of just coming back another day or spending extra time looking for another store.
If you can’t totally avoid buying at the last minute (e.g. a week or several days before school starts), shop early in the day as soon as the malls open. That way, the stores are not yet too crowded and you’ll be able to finish your shopping more quickly before the hordes of after lunch shoppers come in droves later.
8. Store all school supplies in one central location
Eliminate the “Mom, where is it?” questions throughout the school year by designating a big box, a shelf or drawer for all school supplies. This technique also makes it easy for parents to check every now and then which supplies are getting low and need to be replenished.
While it is harder to budget these days than the previous years, we can still cope with the economic changes by being diligent in monitoring our spending. In the end, what matters is that we were able to address our children’s school needs with the resources we have at the time so they can get the best education they can possibly have.