It’s that time again: back to school, back to spending so much money on supplies. And this year, families will have to shell out even more than usual because of inflation.
Fortunately, you can always save money on supplies and other equipment by relying on local relatives, neighbors and community members. Here’s how.
BUY IN BULK, THEN SHARE THE COST
Do you know who else is buying the same supplies you need? The parents of your child’s classmates. So join forces.
Buy some supplies in bulk if the unit cost is less than a smaller package. Then divide those supplies among other caregivers, so each person pays less than if they had gone alone.
Buying in bulk is a smart strategy for more general items typically found on class lists. These could include tissues, disinfectant wipes, plastic storage bags, paper towels and disinfectants, says Charles Field, CEO of TeacherLists, a digital platform that allows teachers to upload lists of supplies. , which 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 each spend $9 per bottle.
Try this method for harder-to-get and more expensive items, too, says Maggie Klokkenga, a certified financial planner based in Morton, Ill., and owner of Make a Money Mindshift, through which she coaches clients on their cash flow.
Say fine tip dry erase markers are hard to find. Rather than multiple parents searching for empty shelves and paying a premium, collaborate.
Klokkenga, a parent of three school-aged children, has tips for coordinating to save on supplies. “It requires organization behind the scenes,” she says.
First, keep the number of people involved to less than 10, she suggests, “before it gets a little hairy.” Gauge interest before continuing. Next, compare the prices of the items you want to split. Amazon is a safe bet for necessities, she says, but office supply stores can hold promise for large orders of classroom-specific items.
Finally, tell the parents the cost per person and ask for this payment. Buy the products only after everyone has paid. After purchasing the items, arrange a pickup.
CONTACT COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS
You don’t want to coordinate that kind of effort? Klokkenga suggests exploiting existing groups.
Call your public library, local community center or place of worship to ask if they are hosting a back-to-school supply drive. If not, consider applying.
For example, if there are several school-age children attending your place of worship, ask leaders to organize a fundraiser for school supplies.
“See if they can help be a partner, so to speak, both in administration and in getting some money,” Klokkenga says.
Be sure to mention how inflation has driven up those costs for many group participants, she adds.
GET USED EQUIPMENT FROM LOCAL MARKETS
Using used supplies and clothing is both environmentally friendly and generally less expensive than buying new clothing. The used route is best for reusable items, such as clothing, backpacks and lunch boxes, says Kari Lorz, certified financial education instructor based in Salem, Ore., and founder of Money for the Mamas, a website to help mothers learn about money.
However, Field points out that buying second-hand is riskier for supplies that can wear out without you knowing it, like ink pens.
As for where to find used items, Lorz recommends the Buy Nothing project. According to its website, this movement includes thousands of local communities hosted on Facebook and the BuyNothing app. In these groups, members ask for and give things for free.
Lorz frequents his local group Buy Nothing. She says it would be good for a new member who hadn’t given anything before to make requests. “There’s no one keeping track,” she says.
You can also find free or discounted items in other local online spaces, such as Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, and Craigslist.
For in-person shopping, look for garage sales, garage sales, and thrift stores.
CREATE A CARPOOL
Whether you need to transport children to school or extracurricular activities, high gas prices will hurt. So try to organize a carpool with nearby families.
Sharing the duty to drive is good for the Earth, your wallet and, as Klokkenga points out, you. “When someone else picks up your child, you just gain 10 to 15 more minutes,” she says.
And when it’s your turn to drive, she says, you can learn more about your child and their classmates. “It promotes conversation,” she says. “A lot of times 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: lmcmullennerdwallet.com. Twitter: lauraemcmullen.