By LAURA MCMULLEN of NerdWallet
It’s that time again: back to school, back to spending so much money on supplies. And this year families have to shell out even more than usual because of inflation.
Luckily, you can still save money on supplies and other gear by leaning on local parents, neighbors, and community members. Here’s how.
BUY BIG, THEN SPLIT THE COSTS
You know who else is buying the same consumables you need? The parents of your child’s classmates. So band together.
Buy certain supplies in bulk when the cost per unit is less than a smaller pack. Then split those supplies among other caregivers so each person pays less than if they went alone.
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Buying in bulk is a smart strategy for more generic items typically found on classroom lists. That could include facial tissues, disinfectant wipes, plastic storage bags, paper towels and sanitizer, says Charles Field, CEO of TeacherLists, a digital platform that allows teachers to upload supplies lists that retailers and parents can access.
Suppose your child is supposed to bring hand sanitizer. A 12 ounce bottle might cost $16. But buy a four-pack for $36, and four people could spend $9 a bottle each.
Try this method for harder-to-obtain and more expensive items, too, says Maggie Klokkenga, a Morton, Illinois-based certified financial planner and owner of Make a Money Mindshift, with whom she coaches clients on their cash flow.
Say that fine-tipped dry-erase markers are hard to find. Instead of multiple parents sifting through empty shelves and paying a premium – work together.
Klokkenga, a parent of three school-age children, has tips on coordinating to save on supplies. “It takes a lot of organization behind the scenes,” she says.
First, keep the number of people involved under 10, she suggests, “before things get a little hairy.” Gauge interest before proceeding. Next, compare the prices of the items you want to split. Amazon is a safe bet for everyday essentials, she says, but office supply stores can show promise for large orders of class-specific items.
Finally, let the parents know what the cost per person will be and request that payment. Only buy the products after everyone has paid. After purchasing the items, arrange a pick-up.
CONTACT COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS
Wouldn’t you like to coordinate this kind of effort? Klokkenga suggests tapping into existing groups.
Call your public library, local community center, or place of worship and ask if they are running a back-to-school fundraiser. If not, consider lobbying for one.
For example, if several school-age children are attending your church service, ask leaders to organize a fundraiser for school supplies.
“See if they can be a partner, so to speak, both in managing and in raising money,” says Klokkenga.
Be sure to mention how inflation has pushed up these costs for many in the group, she adds.
GET USED EQUIPMENT FROM LOCAL MARKETS
Using used supplies and clothing is both environmentally friendly and usually cheaper than buying new. The second-hand route works best for reusable items like clothing, backpacks and lunch boxes, says Kari Lorz, a Salem, Oregon-based certified financial education instructor and founder of Money for the Mamas, a website helping moms to learn about money.
However, Field cautions that buying used materials is riskier as they can wear out without your knowledge, such as: B. Ink sticks.
Wherever you can find used items, Lorz recommends the Buy Nothing Project. According to their website, this movement includes thousands of local communities hosted on Facebook and the BuyNothing app. In these groups, members ask for and give away things for free.
Lorz visits her local Buy Nothing group. She says it would be fine if a new member who hasn’t given anything before makes requests. “There is no one to keep records,” she says.
You may also find free or discounted items in other local online spaces like Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, and Craigslist.
For personal shopping, visit flea markets, flea markets, and thrift stores.
Whether you need to take kids to school or to extracurricular activities, high gas prices are going to hurt. So try to organize a carpool with families nearby.
Sharing the ride is kind to the planet, your wallet and – as Klokkenga points out – you. “If someone else picks up your child, you’ve only gained 10 to 15 minutes more time,” she says.
And when it’s your turn to drive, she says, you can learn more about your child and their classmates. “It encourages conversation,” she says. “Often you learn more about what’s going on.”
This article was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. Laura McMullen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.
NerdWallet: How to save money: 22 proven ways https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-how-to-save-money-22-proven-ways
TeacherLists: Find your back to school supplies list https://www.teacherlists.com/content/parents/
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