Back-to-School Budgeting Tips

Getting the kids ready for school doesn't have to mean breaking the bank.

By: Navy Federal on August 7, 2015

According to surveys by the National Retail Federation, parents of children in grades K through 12 spent an average of $669.28 on back-to-school shopping last year, and the average college student's family spent $916.48.*

Whether your child's back-to-school needs consist of a backpack and crayons for first grade, sporting equipment and a graphing calculator for high school, or a laptop and printer for college, back-to-school expenses can add up quickly. Here are seven tips that can help save you money.

  1. Plan ahead and get the kids involved.

    Write down exactly what each child needs, set a budget and take time to explore options. Explain that wants and needs are very different things. High school and college-age students—particularly the "fashion forward" who place an emphasis on style—should be willing to chip in some of their own money if there's something you aren't willing or able to buy.

  2. Look for sales on new clothes and consider gently used items.

    Most kids are going to be influenced by their friends when it comes to clothing. Fortunately, it's now trendy to shop at consignment and discount stores. Younger kids won't mind, and you can turn it into an event for the older ones by inviting friends along and seeing who can find the best bargains.

  3. Check out used equipment at reputable second-hand stores.

    If your child is into sports, you may be better off buying high-quality used sporting equipment—even if it's only slightly cheaper—than new, lower-quality goods that won't last or provide the support or performance your child needs. The same goes for musical instruments. Unless your child is a musical prodigy, a used instrument probably meets his or her needs.

  4. Look for refurbished electronics.

    Do you really need the latest version of a smartphone or other electronic device? You could save hundreds of dollars by purchasing a refurbished cellphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Just be sure to buy it from a reputable retailer that sells refurbished products and provides a warranty. Beware of buying from online auctions or anywhere that doesn't provide some kind of guarantee. "As is, all sales final" deals should be avoided.

  5. Tax-free shopping days.

    You'll often hear about tax-free shopping days that occur in late summer when it's time to do back-to-school shopping. This is a great way to save money on clothing and school supplies while preparing your son or daughter to start another school year. While some states might offer more tax-free items than other states, such as footwear and computer equipment, not all states participate in the program. So if you live in a state that doesn't sponsor a tax-free shopping day, consider shopping in a nearby state if the commute seems reasonable.

  6. Look for online deals and coupons.

    Daily deal websites feature all kinds of discounts on products and services. You can visit the site or choose to sign up for regular email alerts.

  7. Use your rewards card.

    Many credit card companies offer rewards or even bonus rewards that can be applied to back-to-school purchases when you use your credit card. Sometimes you can get even more rewards when you shop online through a special shopping portal. Navy Federal members can earn big rewards by shopping at our exclusive online Member Mall®, which features major retailers that are favorites with back-to-school shoppers.

*Source: National Retail Federation 2014 Back-to-School Survey, press release, July 17, 2014,