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How to Stop Stress and Spend Less When Back-to-School Shopping

Although it's only the beginning of August, the back-to-school commercials have already started. Before too long, it'll be time to hit the stores for school supplies and new clothes. But although 89% of principals believe it's important that they personally build school spirit at their educational facilities, that excitement often comes with a lot of stress (and added expenses) for American families. In fact, survey results show that the majority of parents lose sleep during the back-to-school season due to excessive stress, while a significant portion feel pressure to overspend during this time of year. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate anxiety and cut costs by the time September rolls around; you'll just need a little help to accomplish those goals.

Approximately 87% of five-year-olds throughout the U.S. were enrolled in preprimary programs like preschool in 2015. But whether your child is entering school for the first time or starting their senior year, you'll end up spending a hefty chunk of change ensuring they have everything they need from September through June. According to a recent survey performed by Bankrate, 43% of parents who have gone back-to-school shopping feel pressured to overspend on technology, school supplies, and clothes. What's more, the National Retail Federation expects that American families will spend 3% more on back-to-school shopping in 2019 compared to 2019, averaging out to nearly $700 per K-12 child on average. For students going back to college, parents are predicted to spend nearly $1,000 on average. And while 67% of Americans have read a print book in the last year, that figure doesn't even necessarily account for the astronomical cost of textbooks on college campuses. All told, the NRF projects that back-to-school shoppers will spend a staggering $80.7 billion on their kids this year.

Understandably, that shopping can result in major financial concerns and emotional stress. A new survey commissioned by Herbalife Nutrition and conducted by OnePoll found that 57% of parents find the back-to-school season to be the most stressful of the year. What's more, 42% experienced stress over the cost of school supplies. Parents also worry about the quality of their kids' teachers, the safety of their kids, and even the nutritional value of what their children are eating. That makes sense, since 76% of children don't receive the recommended amount of exercise and only 8% eat the recommended amounts of vegetables on a daily basis. But because less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of daily physical activity themselves, it can be hard to solidify healthy family habits or work through the stress they experience.

You might be able to experience some emotional relief, however, if you're able to limit your school supply spending from the onset. That's not always easy, considering the cost of school supplies has risen in recent years and students are tasked with the responsibility of contributing more supplies each year. That said, there are some ways to save.

First, figure out what you already have and can potentially use again. Your child doesn't necessarily need new colored pencils if the pack from last year is already in good shape. There may even be unopened supplies or unused notebooks that can be repurposed. For the supplies you do need to buy, remember that "stock-up season" typically runs from mid-July through late August, which can provide you with some good deals -- if you keep track of costs and figure out where the best deals are. Check out your local dollar store to see if you can find calculators, clipboards, or planners for less, and be sure to sign up for rewards programs at major retailers so you can take advantage of cash-back options. Look for coupons from major brands like Post-It and Kleenex and buy art supplies and other tools from craft stores that readily issue discounts. Several states also offer tax-free shopping periods during this time of year; if you live close to one, you might want to take a road trip to seize the opportunity. Don't forget that stores like Target, Staples, Office Depot, and Kohl's will price match their competitors on exact items (though you may need to bring in an ad to receive the lower price). You might also consider checking out some thrift stores in your area for both supplies and gently used clothing. Although you're probably not impulse buying on a budget, keep in mind that some of those stores may not take returns -- so make sure everything fits before you purchase. If you're buying supplies online, utilize platforms like Ebates and Honey to receive cash back on purchases or to find applicable promo codes. Finally, don't be afraid to think outside the box. Neighborhood garage sales or clothing and supply swaps between you and your friends with kids can help you stay on track with your spending and gain access to brands or supplies that might otherwise be inaccessible.

To some degree, back-to-school stress is inescapable. But with these tips in mind, at least you won't add exorbitant debts to your list of worries this year.


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