Whether you are a parent shopping for school supplies or a student going back to school, particularly a college student, you’re undoubtedly feeling the pressure of increased school spending. Many students had fewer physical supplies costs in 2020 due to COVID-19-driven virtual learning. This, coupled with historically high inflation for consumer goods, may mean that you’re feeling the pinch of back-to-school spending even more painfully this year. Of course, most school supplies are nonnegotiable, so while you may not be able to cut back on those costs, you can cut costs in other ways to help soothe the sting to your budget.
Make a Budget
If you haven’t made a proper budget in some time, you might not realize just how much money you have going out. Sitting down with a spreadsheet, an app or good old-fashioned paper and pen to chart expenses and income can help you take a good honest look at where you need to cut corners.
Budgeting 101: How To Create a Budget You Can Live With
Shop With Coupons
If you typically throw away those mailers with all the coupons, or just don’t bother to use them, now is the time to start. You’d be amazed at what you can save if you start to add them up, particularly on groceries and household goods. If you’re not a big paper coupon fan, check out sites like Flipp.com, which aggregate virtual coupons, or cash-back apps like Ibotta. Now might also be a good time to check out Groupon for deals on all manner of things from entertainment to clothing.
Get a Store Membership
Now might be a good time to get a Costco membership, a Target RedCard (which gives you a 5% discount on all purchases) or any other kind of big-box store account that offers you special discounts just for being a member.
If you’re still clinging to big brand names for everything from food to clothing, consider going generic — in most cases, you don’t lose quality, quantity or flavor and save yourself sometimes a significant amount of cash in the process.
Cut Back on Subscriptions
If you weren’t big on subscriptions before the pandemic — from entertainment services to meditation apps, to name a few — you probably added more than before during the long phase of lockdowns. Now, however, if you’re looking to shave off some expenses, look to see if you really need all that you’re paying for. If you’ve got more than one streaming service, pick the one you watch most. Do you really need that exercise app now that your gym is open? How about online newspaper subscriptions — if you look, you will likely be able to find at least a few that you can put on pause until your finances rebound.
Reduce Dining Out or Takeout
Many of us got into the habit of eating takeout during the pandemic, or, once things reopened, returning to dining out. Eating away from home adds up quickly (not to mention food delivery services add extra fees). According to MoneyUnder30.com, the average family spends $3,000 on eating away from home each year! Eating at home can reap significant savings.
Consolidate or Pay Off Debt
If you’re carrying debt, such as a credit card or loan, you’re likely paying a chunk of interest, often as much as 16% to 30%, according to Debt.org. This interest is, essentially, wasted money. If you can pay off or down a debt, transfer a credit card to one with lower interest or consolidate multiple accounts into one, you’ll reduce the amount of interest you’re paying and arrive more quickly at a stage where you can begin to save money.
Get Started: 19 Ways To Tackle Your Budget and Manage Your Debt
Pay With Cash
A little hack to spend less money is to take out cash for only a certain amount each week. From that pay for groceries, gas and essentials only, and you may surprise yourself by saving. At the very least, you won’t make any online impulse buys.
Refinance Your Home
If you own a home, look into refinancing your mortgage, particularly if the current interest rates are lower than what you first signed on for. A refinance can save you hundreds of dollars per month if you do it at the right time and get the right kind. Speak with your lender or a loan professional, according to Forbes, to make sure that your new loan is a better deal than your current one.
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Last updated: Aug. 12, 2021
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Back-to-School Spending Is Up This Year: Here’s Where You Should Cut Costs First