Make the Most of Your Back-to-School

Make the Most of Your Back-to-School Budget


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When summer begins to draw to a close and our thoughts turn to the upcoming school year, we tend to experience a mix of emotions. On one hand, we hate to lose the easiness of summer schedules, long hours of daylight, less hectic mornings, and no homework to manage. On the other hand, it can feel good to get back to the routine that gets us through the majority of the year. Plus, for kids, it can be exciting to get new school supplies, a new backpack and the perfect pair of tennis shoes.

Regardless of your level of excitement, we can give you some ideas to make the process of sending your kids back to school less difficult—and hopefully less expensive.

Did You Know?

Before we dive into some helpful money-saving tips, you might be interested in a bit of educational trivia. For example:

  • The Boston Latin School, established in 1635, was the first public school in what is now the United States. Though it has changed locations, it still operates today.

  • Higher education in our country began with the founding of Harvard in 1636.

  • Elementary school did not become a requirement in all states until 1918.

  • Approximately 75 million students (including college) will go back to school this fall—and many will be standing in line with you to purchase whatever you or your kids need to prepare for the new year. (Though to be fair, 35 percent of back-to-school shopping is now done online.)

How to Save Money

The National Retail Federation estimates that families will spend an average of $864 on school supplies this year, and college students will spend $1,199 on average. With all of us facing the prospect of rising prices, we want to make sure you know some of the ways you can stretch your back-to-school budget.

Shop During Sales Tax Holidays

This summer, 15 states are offering families a “sales tax holiday” to help with the cost of sending kids back to school with the things they need. This means you can buy specific items without paying sales tax. Review the list of states, shopping dates and back-to-school necessities that can be purchased so you can plan your shopping for those dates. Dates and details vary by state, so make sure you don’t miss out.

Get Discounted or Free School Supplies

When you’re buying notebooks, pencils and pens, glue and so on, the costs can add up. You can purchase these and other school supplies at a discount at Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabric. Both offer discounts to military families.

Back-to-School Brigade® is Operation Homefront’s annual nationwide school supply distribution campaign. Since its inception, Operation Homefront has distributed 465,000 backpacks with school supplies to military children. For more than a decade, Operation Homefront and Dollar Tree Inc. have joined forces to help children of military families prepare for the new school year. Visit the events page or join the Facebook community to find a Back-to-School Brigade event near you. 

Get a Computer or Cell Phone for Less

Of course, back-to-school planning isn’t just for the kids. If you’re planning a transition to civilian life, you may be considering going back to school to enhance your career prospects. While you may not need a new backpack, you’ll still want to be fully prepared to be a student again, and that could mean it’s time for a computer update. 

Today, PCs and other electronics are a necessary part of school--and life. Fortunately, Dell offers special discounts to military families. You also can get military discounts when you purchase devices from Apple.

In addition, most cellphone providers, like Verizon and T-Mobile, offer military discounts. They may offer military discounts on accessories, too. Be sure to ask for details.

Save on Clothing and Shoes 

Kids grow fast and tend to need new clothes as each new school year rolls around. Get them what they need using military discounts at stores like Old Navy, L.L.Bean, Levi Strauss & Co and Columbia. You can get discounts on shoes at retailers like Rack Room Shoes, Foot Locker, New Balance, Nike, and

Use the Exchange Price Match Policy

The Navy Exchange (NEX), Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) all offer price matching. If you see a lower price for the same item at another store, bring proof of pricing to your Exchange and you can buy the item at the competitor’s lower price.

Wherever you decide to shop for school supplies, electronics or clothing, even if your favorite store is not listed here, be sure to ask if they offer discounts to military families. You just might walk away with a deal!

Uniformed Services Benefit Association (USBA) is a not-for-profit Association that provides group life insurance, health insurance supplements, and other products and services to military personnel, Federal employees, National Guard and Reserve members, Veterans and their families.

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