When you have kids, the start of a new school year can be a very expensive time. Recent research from The Ascent found that parents planned to spend almost $900 this year on back-to-school shopping.
Because I have multiple children who are all enrolled in sports activities, my credit card tab was even higher than that — especially since this year, I wasn’t as successful as getting hand-me-down items as I normally am. But I would’ve been looking at an even larger bill had I not stocked up on certain supplies at my local dollar store.
I commonly rely on the dollar store to purchase supplies throughout the school year. And while that’s generally a source of savings, there were plenty of times over the past academic year when I found myself wasting money.
This year, I’d like for things to be different. Here are a few mistakes I’m pledging to do my best to avoid.
1. Overbuying items to avoid a repeat trip
My local dollar store is a five-minute drive from my home. In spite of that, I tend to get into a bit of a frenzy when I pop in for supplies, to the point where I’ll often purchase extras of what I need to avoid a repeat trip.
The problem? I often don’t need those extras. So instead of saving money, I’m wasting it.
This year, I intend to get on board with the idea of repeat dollar store trips. Granted, I maintain a busy schedule, so I can’t exactly be popping over to the dollar store every other day. But I can reasonably work an extra trip in here and there.
2. Going at the last minute to buy project supplies
While I tend to be very on top of my work-related deadlines, I’m not always so on top of my kids’ school projects. That’s partly because I try to foster independence in my household, and also, because I admittedly have limited patience for elementary school crafts.
When my kids need supplies for a project, I often find myself running to the dollar store at the last minute to purchase them. That’s a mistake, though, because dollar store inventory isn’t always consistent.
To put it another way, you can’t count on your local dollar store to have everything you’ll need on the spot. So waiting until the last minute to go there isn’t wise.
This year, I plan to hound my kids more about ongoing projects and do my shopping ahead of time. That way, if my local dollar store doesn’t have what I need, I can look at low-cost options on Amazon and wait for my orders to arrive in the mail.
3. Bringing my kids along when I shop
My youngest kids are twin third-graders, and they’re at an age where they actually understand money to a large degree. Last year, whenever I brought my daughters to the dollar store, I inevitably found myself conned into buying them extra things on the basis of “It’s only a dollar, Mom.”
Well, I refuse to keep falling into that trap. This year, I intend to do my dollar store shopping solo whenever possible. I may sometimes have to bring my kids along so they can pick specific things for their projects. But when it’s a generic list, they’re not invited to the dollar store party.
All told, I’ve definitely saved a bundle of money on school-related items by going to the dollar store. If I can avoid these mistakes this school year, I might enjoy even more savings. And if you’re someone who does a lot of dollar store shopping, you, too, may want to employ these tips.
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