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5 tips for back-to-school budgeting
Rachel Cruze offers five tips for budgeting for back-to-school supplies. - photo by Rachel Cruze
Can you feel it? Fall is right around the corner, and that means its back-to-school time.

Hopefully you havent waited until the last minute and you have most of your shopping done. If not, thats OK. Here are a few guidelines as you get everything together for your childs first day back in the classroom.

1. Make a budget and stick to it. Whether youre 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 youre not in the habit of making a monthly budget, well, this is a great opportunity to get a little practice. Check out Its our free budgeting tool, and itll 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 doesnt mean they need it especially if its $20 more than a basic backpack. Im not saying you cant make back-to-school shopping fun, but dont 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 youll 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 kids teachers. If you havent 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 youll have what you need from them 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 even leaving home. You might consider buying pencils, paper and other items that you dont necessarily need to see before you buy. You might save money, and youll definitely save time.

Its not too late to make sure youre doing back-to-school shopping the right way. Make a budget, keep your priorities in check, and dont let the little ones talk you into buying stuff they dont really need. Use the back-to-school season as a great opportunity to get your finances in order before the holiday season hits in a few months.