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#BackToSchool: How to Avoid Adding to Your Consumer Debt

It’s hard to miss them: back-to-school ads have been on TV for weeks already. For a lot of parents, that means spending more than they want and taking on additional consumer debt. We thought this would be a good opportunity to share tips and resources on how to avoid debt in what can be a very expensive time of year for families.

  1. Reuse before buying new

Before rushing out to the store (and pulling out your credit card) to buy new school supplies, take time to take stock of what you already have.

Evaluate what your child can reuse from last year and what needs to be replaced. Items like backpacks and lunch bags can be expensive, but can easily be used for a few years if still in good working order. Even reusing pens, pencils and binders that are almost new can help alleviate stress on the family’s back-to-school budget.

  1. Spread out your purchases

If you can, start budgeting and saving as early as possible for school supplies. Even with school starting in a just a few weeks, you may be able to find some extra dollars for back-to-school expenses in this month’s and next month’s budget.

Make a list of what supplies your child needs now and what can wait. For example, if you have a child in high school and they don’t have Phys Ed class until the second semester you might be able to get away with holding off on those new sneakers until later in the year.

Beyond the essentials it can be beneficial to wait until school begins before purchasing everything on your list. This can help you avoid buying things that you think your child needs for school, but turns out they really don’t. It also helps to spread out the impact on your monthly budget, especially if it’s already stretched thin.

  1. Look for ways to save

From shopping online to waiting for next month’s sales, there are lots of opportunities to save on back-to-school supplies and minimize the need to take on debt. The internet has made it easier than ever to discover ways to save. We’ve put together some of those resources to get you started:

K to College: 10 Back-to-school saving ideas for everyone is a roundup of back to school posts from personal finance writer Kerry Taylor. Lots of great budget friendly ideas!

Check out personal finance expert Barry Choi’s 5 Back to School Saving Tips for parents.

Learn how to go Back to School On a Budget from a mother of five on

  1. Take action on the debt you have

Back-to-school shopping shouldn’t put your other financial goals – such as working to reduce debt — to the backburner. If the family budget is stretched thin, you may have an opportunity to create some flexibility by looking at ways to deal with your current debt.

For example, a consolidation loan can help simplify the number of debts you carry and potentially lower the amount you pay each month. Or changing your debt repayment strategy may help you pay debt off quicker or more efficiently. You can learn more about debt relief options on our debt help page.

One more suggestion: start planning and saving for next year’s back-to-school purchases now. This gives you a longer period in which to put money aside each month. You can stretch out purchases and reduce the need to use credit cards or add to your consumer debt load.

These are just a few tips and resources to help you avoid taking on consumer debt during the back-to-school shopping season. Know a parent who might benefit from this blog? Share it with them directly or help us spread the message on Twitter using #BacktoSchool, #DebtSolutions, or #FamilyFinances!

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