The cost to get kids ready for school this fall is soaring. But you don’t have to participate. Here are a few quick ideas for how to keep the costs down, perhaps even lower than what you’ve spent in past years!

Clothes

Start with shoes. There’s nothing like a new pair of shoes to get kids in the mood for the first day of school. Shoes are so satisfying, this will take the edge off the raging case of the “I wants” that your children may have picked up somewhere. And a new pair of shoes even perks up last season’s clothes.

Once you get your kids into a consignment store that specializes in kids wear, they’ll be hooked and you’ll be thrilled. Expect to find gently worn and brand new clothes in current styles and colors for 50 to 75 percent off new retail.

Don’t buy into the notion that you must purchase an entire year’s worth of clothes before the first day of school. That is foolish, if for no other reason the kids are going to grow. Instead, set up a month-at-a-time or semester-at-a-time program with your kids. Now you are poised to take advantage of sales that come up from time to time and myriad other places to pick up kids’ clothes.

What’s on sale now? Summer clothes, right? Well, load up. Many regions of the country will continue to have warm weather right through October and even later if you are in the west or the south. Teach your kids how to layer, and they’ll be able to wear summer weights for several more months.

School Supplies

Consider which items are non-negotiable like the class list of required supplies. Clothing, shoes, lunch boxes and backpacks allow for greater flexibility.

A good way to make sure you stay within your budget is to use the envelope system and put the cash you’ve allotted for each child into separate envelopes. Even younger kids get it that once the cash is gone, no more money can be spent.

Band instruments

Don’t run out and buy a new instrument for your young budding musician. Instead, put the word out to relatives and friends. Invariably a cousin, aunt or friend of a friend has the instrument you need stashed in their attic or basement. They may be willing to arrange a loan so you have a chance to test this new interest and ability before committing a sizable investment to the endeavor.

Some music stores sell used and refurbished instruments. Because lower end band and orchestra instruments depreciate quickly, you can pick up a great deal on a newly conditioned item.

School Lunches

You’ll save about $5 a week if you make your own single-serving-size bags of snacks from jumbo-size bags of chips and a box of plastic sandwich bags.

Wash and re-use 20-ounce soda bottles with screw-on lids in kids’ lunches. Fill with water or juice, rather than pricey individual boxed drinks or cans of soda.

Online Shopping

Use comparison-shopping engines to find the best bargains online. Online retailers are going to be aggressive in their efforts to win your business. So one of the best ways a savvy shopper can capitalize on the best deals is to use sites like Pricegrabber.com, Shopping.com, Nextag,com, Google.com and Amazon.com. Always look for free shipping.

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