As a new school year approaches, chances are your wallet—and stress levels—are dreading the change.
Sixty-seven percent of U.S parents with school-age children say they plan to spend more than $100 per child on back-to-school shopping this year, according to a survey released by Offers.com in July. However, preparing for school doesn’t have to drain your bank account or your energy.
“Get organized to avoid overspending,” said Jon Lal, founder of BeFrugal.com. That might include looking through what you already have, creating shopping lists and storing items you’ll want in the future.
You’ll also want to set up your home to better manage the school papers, sports equipment and homework projects you’ll need to keep track of in the next months.
Here are seven back-to-school tips to help you stay organized.
1. Get Rid of Items You’ll No Longer Use.
If you have school supplies left over from last year that you won’t need anymore, consider donating them to a school, said Jill Prevatt, a professional organizer who owns Arrange Professional Organizing LLC in Baltimore. Check with the school your child attended last year, or find another local school needs those items.
Other places, such as a day care center or children’s hospital, might accept gently used items. If you have an assortment of uniforms, school clothing and backpacks from last year, consider arranging a swap with other parents.
2. Set Up Your Home.
To eliminate morning chaos, “assign a ‘home’ for each book bag, lunch box and gym bag,” Prevatt recommended. Decorative hooks work well for hanging backpacks, and a cubbyhole storage unit can make it easy to spot assorted school gear. If possible, keep items close to the door so your child is able to grab what she needs as she leaves in the morning.
“Manage calendars and schedules by hanging a bulletin board in a central, well-seen location,” Prevatt suggested. Also, make notes of school activities for the year on the calendar or your planner.
3. Organize a Study Area.
If you don’t have a room to dedicate to studying, consider setting up a desk near the kitchen. Using the table in your eating area might be another option, as you’ll be able to supervise homework while making dinner, Prevatt said.
Keep what you’ll need for daily homework activities, such as pencils and folders, in a drawer or basket nearby.
4. Store Items You’ll Need in the Future.
If your child has a younger sibling, you may want to store used school supplies, sports equipment and clothes for future use.
To keep items in good condition, consider splurging on a sturdy container such as a clear plastic tub with a lid, said Debbie Williams, founder of CommonSenseOrganizer.com and author of “Organized Kidz.” Label the box to indicate what’s inside, such as “Boys’ clothes size 5.”
When placing items in a self-storage unit, “make a simple inventory of what you take,” Williams said. Keep the list in a folder in the kitchen or a desk so it’s easy to remember—and find—what’s in storage.
5. Factor in Costs for New Supplies.
Before shopping, look through items you already have at home. You may find you already have supplies your child needs, such as markers.
If your child is heading off to college for the first time, “talk to others that have recently gone through the experience,” Lal said. You’ll be able to get information on what to buy—and also what to avoid. For instance, colleges often provide free or inexpensive printing services, so your kid might not need to haul a printer to campus.
6. Shop With Care.
Now is the time to stock up on non-perishable goods such as napkins, sandwich bags and tissues, said Kelli Bhattacharjee, owner of FreebieFindingMom.com, a site that provides daily freebies, bargains, coupons and money-saving advice.
For other supplies, check online for deals and discounts. FreebieFindingMom.com offers information on how to get certain school supplies for free, such as paper and textbooks.
7. Prepare for Long-Term Change.
If your child is going to college for the first time, there’s a good chance he or she will be leaving a bedroom in your home unoccupied. The coming months might be a good time to rearrange that room.
For instance, you may decide to convert that room into a home office or craft room. Consider moving items from your kid’s room into storage during the following months. Then watch for deals on furniture that’ll fit the room’s new use.