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Budgeting for the Rest of 2019: Back-to-School and Winter Holidays

Contributed by: Heath Combs

When it comes to creating and following a family budget, the second half of a year can be much more difficult than the first half because there are more big, expensive events. This article will look at two of those events – back-to-school and the winter holidays – and give you some tips on preparing yourself financially.

Back to School: It may seem like summer has just started, but now is the time to start thinking about back-to-school purchases. According to the Huntington Backpack Index, here is what parents can expect to pay to prepare a K-12 child for a new school year:

•    Elementary school: About $600
•    Middle school: About $900
•    High school: About $1,300

It’s not surprising, given these numbers, that 60% of parents say that affording back-to-school items is a challenge.

But there are some simple ways to save money on back-to-school supplies. One of the easiest no-cost things you can do is to take an inventory of school supplies that you already have around the house.

Gather anything that you think would be useful for the new school year – pens, pencils, markers, notebooks, etc. – and put them in a central location. You might be surprised to find the school supplies that you already own.

Then go through your kids’ closets and evaluate their clothes. If they’ve outgrown the clothes or worn them out, donate them or toss them.

Once your survey is complete, you’ll have a better idea of what you really need as you compare it to the list of required items given to you by your school.

Then talk to your neighbors and friends. See if they would like to have a “supply swap.” You might have an abundance of loose-leaf paper. They might have lots of pens and pencils. Trading some of these items will save both families money.

While it is more time consuming, yard sales, garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores hold all sorts of unexpected treasures, often priced at pennies on the dollar. For instance, a Goodwill Retail Store will usually have racks and racks of gently used clothes, and it may have other items on your back-to-school list. One key is to start looking now before your selection options are reduced.

In addition, you should check consignment shops and dollar stores. Both places may surprise you in terms of what they have available.

After exhausting these non-traditional, money-saving locations, you’ll probably find that you still need to visit a few traditional retail stores to buy some items. One big benefit is that many stores will send shoppers links to coupons and advance notice of sales. Here is a list of a few stores that you can follow on Twitter or Facebook:

•    Amazon Deals: @amazondeals
•    Coupons.com: @Coupons
•    Staples: @Staples
•    Office Max: @OfficeMax
•    TJ Maxx: @tjmaxx
•    Marshalls: @marshalls
•    Best Buy: @BestBuy
•    Target: @Target 
•    Kohl’s: @Kohls
•    RetailMeNot: @RetailMeNot

With any luck, these swap and shopping ideas will take some of the pain out of back-to-school shopping.

Winter holidays: But looming on the horizon are the major winter holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa – and these can really be budget busters if you are not careful. 

Here are some simple guidelines to help you reduce stress, enjoy the season more and start 2020 without experiencing a holiday-budget hangover.

While there are lots of ways to save money, three strategies float to the top and are the most effective:

•    Make a shopping list: Write down a list of all the people who you plan to shop for. Think hard about who should be on the list and why. Start with those in your immediate family and then consider close friends. And don’t be afraid to trim people from your list.

•    Set a spending limit: Winter holidays can be an emotional and exciting time. Unfortunately, with all the ads and TV commercials it’s too easy to get caught up in the excitement and spend more than you intend. But if you can set a strict budget and stick to it, you’ll be much happier after the glow of the season has passed.

•    Pay in cash: Using cash instead of credit cards forces people to stick with a budget. You can only spend the cash in your pocket. One study found that people spend 100% more when they use credit cards. In addition, it’s easy to lose track of what you are spending on credit cards, unless you total your credit-card receipts after every shopping trip. During the winter holidays, cash should be king.

While these are two of the biggest expense periods left in 2019, each family is different and there are other major items that you may be planning to purchase. For instance, a new car, a new house, tuition, new appliances, etc. And, of course, there are unexpected expenses like an appliance unexpectedly needing to be replaced or a major car repair.

Budgeting for expected and unexpected items will keep you out of debt and make for a happier finish to 2019.

Truliant can help: If your budget is headed for trouble or if you are having difficulty developing a realistic budget, a Truliant representative can sit down with you at one of our branches and suggest some simple strategies to manage and/or create a family budget. Please call 800.822.0382 for more details.

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