Be Smart and Save Money: 5 Tips for Back to School Shopping

First and foremost, when you’re shopping for back to school supplies, make sure you know what you have. Go through your kids’ rooms and take inventory of their clothing and any supplies they might have laying around. Clean out old backpacks and school bags. Take stock of supplies in your home office, in your kitchen drawers, in the hall closet. This way, you won’t continue to buy a protractor every year when you have a forgotten pile of them tucked away somewhere in your house.

Once you have a list of what you already have, you’ll be more focused on what you need. Using your inventory list, create a new list of items your kids absolutely need for the upcoming school year. Make copies of your finalized need list and give them to everyone in your family. If you and your family are tech-savvy, consider creating a shared google doc, or something of the like, so that you and your children can edit it together. This way, there should be no confusion on what’s been purchased and what you still need to buy.

Start buying early and plan your time

Planning ahead is really the best way to save money on back to school shopping. If you start looking at supplies and prices early, you’ll be better equipped to recognize and take advantage of the best sale prices.

Also, if you make a plan ahead of time, deciding which stores you and your kids will need to visit to get their supplies, you can track those stores easily by subscribing to their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Often, stores will post reminders of sales or even surprise offers to their subscribers. Following these stores early and often will help you get the most for your money.

Another benefit to starting your shopping early is the option of shopping online. Many times, you can find great deals shopping on Amazon, Overstock, even eBay or Craigslist. And, some stores offer online specific sales with better deals than you can find in store. So, don’t wait until the last week of summer to scramble and get your kids their supplies! Give yourself time to browse the internet too, and leave plenty of time for the great deals you find to be shipped to you.

Shop Tax Free Weekend and End of Summer Sales (but beware…)

Shopping on tax free weekend and during end of summer sales can be great ways to save money on back to school supplies. Parents should absolutely be aware of when tax free shopping occurs, and they should keep track of when their (and their kids’) favorite stores hold their end of summer sales.

However, it’s also a good idea to be critical of these seemingly fabulous sales. I worked at Old Navy throughout my high school and college years, so I have firsthand knowledge of some of the sneakier sides to summer sales. For example, sometimes stores will mark their prices up to full value during tax-free weekends, and other stores will actually run better sales before and after the big advertised “summer sale.” So be wary of the sales you see, and take the extra time to determine whether you’re getting the best deal. Don’t be fooled by the “tax-free” excitement of saving 7% on a shirt that costs $25 when it will be 50% off during next week’s less advertised sale.

Avoid unnecessaries and compromise with your kids

Fancy pencil pouches? Your kid has a backpack… that’s a pencil pouch right there. Cute, trendy, or graphic covered binders that cost 4x the amount of a regular, plain, binder? Who needs it? Chances are, your kid is going to either stuff some papers in there to keep for later, draw on it with markers or pens, or never take it out of his/her locker. Cutting down on the unnecessary items your kid wants but doesn’t need is a surefire way to save money.

But, if your son really wants the expensive backpack with a built in organizer, a hard-case pocket for his laptop, and a cool design on the front, compromise with him. If your daughter will not stop asking for the Vera Wang lunch bag she saw online the other day, compromise with her. Strike up a deal that they have to pay the difference between the backpack or lunch bag you want to buy for them and the one they want. They could cover this difference using saved up holiday money, allowance money, or by doing extra chores.

Be wary of teacher required lists

This last tip is a little variable, but here’s a secret from someone who’s taught high school for the past 5 years: Take our “required” school supply lists with a grain of salt. Again, this is the experience of just one teacher, but honestly, sometimes we don’t even know what our students will need for the entire year. My best advice is to buy the basics: pens, pencils, paper. Your child will always need something to write with and something to write on, but hold off on any excess- colored pencils, glue sticks, a binder for each class, rulers, etc.- until you know exactly what they’ll be using on a day-to-day basis

 

The Best Gift is One That Gives Back

We love the holiday season at Greenlight. It’s a time when families have thoughtful conversations about what they’re thankful for. Many talk about the importance of generosity and reflect on our responsibility to give to those less fortunate. Some families offer their time to support noble causes and give back to their communities. Some choose to make donations to nonprofits.

Throughout this Thanksgiving season, we encourage you to share with your kids the gift of giving. 

Generosity is part of human nature. And it leads to happier lives.

A research study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in 2015 explored generosity in toddlers by putting a container of marbles at shared tables to see how their children would distribute the marbles. Most of the time, the kiddos would distribute their marbles equally. 

In another variation of the study, toddlers were given separate trays and the researchers randomly distributed the marbles between them. In situations where a child was given more marbles than their partner, one-third of the time, the lucky toddler with more marbles would give up their extra marbles to their partner to even the score.

A different study by the University of Zurich in 2017 found that generosity actually makes people happier, even if they only give a little. 

Choose your way to give.

Ashley Noto, Greenlight’s SVP of Product and Analytics gave us a look inside how her family gives back during the holidays: “With all the gifts from friends and family during the holiday, I think it’s also a great opportunity to celebrate the joy of giving with my kids,” she said.  “At the beginning of the season, we adopt a family in need. We all contribute earned allowances and participate in buying items for the family. As the season comes to a close, my kids give back — either a toy or a portion of gift money they received — to a charity of their choice.”

There are many different ways kids can share their generosity and give their time, effort or money! 

  1. Time: Choose an organization to volunteer with as a family. Volunteermatch.org is a great place to identify opportunities to donate your time. You can even search by different causes.
  2. Unwanted items: Involve your kids by encouraging them to clean their closets and donate old clothes to local organizations.
  3. Toy or food drives: Many schools and local businesses run toy and food drives around Thanksgiving to give to those less fortunate. 
  4. Money: Donating money helps enforce lessons in budgeting with kids while instilling the importance of generosity. 

Set monetary donation goals.

In anticipation for the holiday season, work with your kids to set individual or family donation goals. As your kids are gifted money for the holidays, work with kids to put funds back for an end-of-year donation. 

  • Allocate a percentage of allowance payouts into your kids Give accounts which can only be used with charitable organizations. 
  • Create a Greenlight Savings Goal to help kids track progress toward a larger donation. Did you know that kids who set saving goals save 29.5% more than kids who don’t? Have your kids research their favorite charitable organizations — ones they identify with the most. If you need someplace to start, these are the 3 most popular organizations for Greenlight kids.

It’s always important to remember the power of the collective. Even the smallest donation is part of a much larger community of givers.

Rewarding generosity.

It’s also important to reward your child’s generosity. Praise them for contributing to causes larger than themselves and weave giving back into regular conversations. You’ll notice how naturally these conversations emerge – whether it’s an ill classmate in need or a school-sponsored food drive.

At Greenlight, we are proud to celebrate generosity. In December, we have some special things planned to encourage the giving nature of Greenlight kids and reward them for their efforts. Stay tuned!

Give with Greenlight!


Sign up for Greenlight today to encourage giving. 

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year to Save and Budget

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us! There’s no better time than now to take up the topic of budgeting and saving with the family. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday retail sales will be up 4.2% over 2018, for a total of $730.7 billion spent on gifts for family and friends! Before your kids make their holiday gift lists, start conversations on how to set budgets and save up.

Bring on the budget

Setting a clear budget for the holidays and sticking to it will show your kids they don’t have to go into debt to have a holly jolly holiday season. The average American took on more than $1,000 in debt during the holiday season in 2018, so showing kids the importance of setting a budget, planning for the budget (calculating how much everything will cost for the season and how much they will need to save) and how to stay within the budget will serve them in the future. 

Make a list (check it twice)

Lists aren’t just for Santa Claus to find out who’s naughty or nice during the holiday season — they’re the perfect tool to help stay on budget when it comes to spending.

Before heading out to a store or logging onto Amazon, ask your kids to make a list of who they want to buy presents for and if they know what they plan to get each person (if so, have them add their gift idea to the list). To make sure your child doesn’t run through their holiday budget, ask them to look into the price of what they want to buy before they plan to shop for it.

Having a list to work through will keep shopping focused, both in-store or online, if you’re out shopping on Black Friday or going after deals on Cyber Monday, teach your kids focus is key.

Set a savings goal 

Within the Greenlight app, encourage your kids to set up Saving Goals, specifically for holiday. Perhaps they name it their Christmas Fund or their Gift Goals. Here’s how to set up a Saving Goal: 

  1.     Navigate to your “Save” tab.
  2.     Tap “Add a Savings Goal.”
  3.     Enter a title or description of what you will be saving for.
  4.     Enter a goal amount.
  5.     Tap “Add Savings Goal” to complete the set-up process.

Parents, remember that your kids need permission to spend their savings. As they move money out of their Saving Goals into a spending greenlight, they’ll send you a request. Be on the lookout for when it’s time for them to cross holiday shopping off their to-do list.

The season for deals and shopping steals 

After your kids have saved to meet their holiday Saving Goals, it’s important to talk them through smart spending. The holidays are a great time to teach bargain shopping (especially with a budget in mind). Here are the three shopping days you and your family should consider for deals and steals: 

  • Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving is considered to be one of the busiest retail days of the year and it’s known for its big sales, discounted prices and often crazy in-store crowds. Black Friday is a good day to teach your kids how to navigate in-store experiences and what it’s like to shop with specific items in mind. It’s never too early to start shopping Black Friday deals, you can check out a comprehensive guide here.
  • Small Business Saturday: The Saturday after Thanksgiving (also known as Shop Small Saturday) is an opportunity to teach your kids about supporting locally owned businesses and small, unique brick and mortars in your neighborhood.
  • Cyber Monday: The Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, is the hottest day for online retailers to offer some of their best deals for the season. Can’t make it to the mall on Black Friday? Consider shopping Cyber Monday deals from the comfort of your own home. 

Talking to kids about sales, coupons, discounts and the benefits of when to shop in-person and online can help create savvy shoppers for life. 

A little thoughtfulness won’t break the bank 

Gift giving often becomes a major focus during the holiday season, but not all gifts have to come from a store. Some of the most thoughtful gifts come straight from the heart. When your kids are making their holiday gift giving lists, make sure to have the conversation that small, thoughtful gifts can go a long way. 

Cookies, DIY ornaments, arts and crafts projects, handwritten cards and random acts of kindness to those we know and love won’t break the bank. And the warm and fuzzy feeling they bring about is what the holiday season is all about after all.

Add Parent-Paid Interest 

Parents, to encourage saving, consider adding Parent-Paid Interest within the Greenlight app. 

Greenlight offers parents the opportunity to set and pay interest rates on savings to demonstrate the magic of compound interest. Here’s how to set up parent-paid interest!

Get ahead for the holidays with Greenlight

Join Greenlight today to encourage wise saving and smart spending ahead of the winter holidays. Set up a holiday specific savings goal today!