By Rachel Cruze
Can you feel it? Fall is right around the corner, and that means it's back-to-school time!
Hopefully, you haven't waited until the last minute and you have most of your shopping done. If not, that's OK! Here are a few guidelines as you get everything together for your child's first day back in the classroom.
1. Make a budget . . . and stick to it. Whether you're heading to Target this afternoon or a week from now, you need to make sure all your back-to-school costs are included in your monthly budget. And if you're not in the habit of making a monthly budget, well, this is a great opportunity to get a little practice! Budgeting tools, such as the free everydollar.com, will help you make a budget you can actually stick to.
2. Focus on needs, not wants. Your 8-year-old might want the fancy Lightning McQueen backpack, but that doesn't mean they need it -- especially if it's $20 more than a basic backpack. I'm not saying you can't make back-to-school shopping fun, but don't overspend just because your kid throws a fit in the backpack aisle.
3. Keep it simple. Remember, you just need the basics to get started -- not everything you'll need for the entire school year. If money is tight, buy the minimum your child needs right now, then work the rest into your budget over the next few months.
4. Talk with your kid's teachers. If you haven't received a list of items your child needs for the upcoming year, be sure to touch base with the school and reach out to the teacher. Most schools are pretty good about covering this type of information at orientation or open house, so hopefully you'll have the information you need well before you head out to shop.
5. Look around online. Some of the best deals are online. Start with Amazon, then do some research and see what else you might be able to order without leaving home. You might consider buying pencils, paper, and other items that you don't necessarily need to see before you buy. You might save money, and you'll definitely save time.
It's not too late to make sure you're doing back-to-school shopping the right way. Make a budget, keep your priorities in check, and don't let the little ones talk you into buying stuff they don't really need.
Use back-to-school as a great opportunity to get your finances in order before the holiday season hits in a few months.
Rachel Cruze is a #1 New York Times best-selling author and seasoned communicator, helping Americans learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. She's authored two best-selling books: Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey. You can follow Cruze on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, YouTube, or Facebook.