Dave Ramsey’s 6 Best Tips for Affordable Back-to-School Shopping

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If you have kids that are headed to school soon, you need to read these tips.

Key points

  • Going back to school can be expensive for parents because kids need a lot of stuff.
  • There are ways to save money on back-to-school shopping.
  • Dave Ramsey has offered some important tips, including setting priorities and shopping strategically.

The start of a new school year can be an exciting time for parents and kids. It can also be an expensive time, as kids tend to require a lot of stuff to get ready for a return to the classroom.

The good news is that you can often save money on back-to-school shopping. Finance expert Dave Ramsey has offered a number of suggestions to help you do that. Here are six of his best tips you may want to consider following.

1. Decide on your priorities

Ramsey’s best advice is to make sure you prioritize what you are actually spending money on rather than just buying everything you or your child think they might need.

“Create a list of needs and put them in order from most pressing to least,” the Ramsey Solutions blog reads. “A few new shirts and a pair of shoes might be at the top of the list and that new iPad for homework might be at the bottom.”

Ramsey believes this is crucial because if you can’t afford to pay for all of the desired back-to-school purchases, you can put your money toward the essentials first and put off the others until later. If you don’t prioritize and you just start buying, you could otherwise end up having to charge something vital on your credit cards because you spent all your cash on things that weren’t as necessary.

2. Check out what you already have

Ramsey also recommends taking stock of your current supplies — including the clothes your kids already own and any available hand-me-downs — before you start buying stuff. He warns that it can take time to sort through everything and see what can be reused and what you really need to buy, but it’s well worth putting in the time to save money.

3. Set a budget

Since Ramsey is a huge proponent of budgeting to solve many financial problems, it’s probably not surprising that he advocates working back-to-school shopping into your budgeting process.

He suggests creating two separate categories on your budget: one line-item for one-time purchases you need to make at the start of the school year and another for ongoing expenses you’ll pay throughout the year, such as fees for clubs.

By budgeting for these things, you will have “permission to spend” and won’t end up in debt because you’re facing surprise school expenses.

4. Don’t shop all at once

Ramsey believes out of your shopping can be easier rather than rushing to buy everything you need right at the start of the school year.

“Buy a little this month, buy a little next,” he suggested. “Don’t blow the budget in August. Not only that is a risky money decision, but your kid is also likely to shoot up another inch by October. Then, it’s back to the racks again.”

5. Be strategic about where you shop

Ramsey went beyond offering advice about when to shop and also suggested where to go as well. Specifically, he believes the dollar store is a great place to purchase many back-to-school items such as planners, pens, and poster boards.

6. Be aware of the lowest price item isn’t always the best one

Finally, perhaps Ramsey’s most important piece of advice is not to confuse a low price for the best deal.

“An item can be cheap in more ways than one: cost and quality,” he said. “If something is low cost, it can be a good value. But if something is low quality, it isn’t worth your money. Especially if you have to replace it in a few months all over again.”

When you are buying items your child will use every day, you want them to be durable, high-quality, and designed to last. While this may mean budgeting a little more upfront and shopping a little more carefully to find the right product, it’s well worth it.

By following these tips, hopefully your back-to-school shopping experience can be a successful one that doesn’t blow your budget.

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