Back-To-School season is an expensive time for families. With five little ones heading off this September, I put all my own tips and tricks in high gear.

It’s Inventory Time!

Go Through Those Closets: Purge the stuff you no longer need, but keep an eye out for those little gems that are hand-me-down worthy. They are invaluable—we rely on hand-me-downs from older siblings, cousins, neighbours and pretty much anyone else who is willing to drop a bag off at our front door!

Consignment shops: Do you have tweens or teens who want trendy clothes that cost more than anything you’d spend on yourself? Have a look around—there are many high-end second-hand stores that cater to this market. Search online as well—why spend five times more than you need to? Oh, and when your fickle teen is done with the shirt she has only worn three times, take it back to the consignment shop so she can make money for her next purchase.

Last Year’s School Supplies: Don’t assume your kid needs all new binders, pencil crayons and other school supplies. See what can be salvaged from the last school year. You can keep one kid busy all afternoon by handing out the important job of “official old pencil crayon sharpener.” Is the backpack looking a little grungy? Throw it in the laundry—once you get that squashed banana off the bottom, you might realize it’s got a bit of life left in it.

After you’ve done a true inventory, you’ll have a better idea of what your actual needs are. That will save unnecessary spending and make back-to-school shopping much easier.

What You Don’t Need

To Shop RIGHT NOW: You don’t need to shop right now. Buy things off-season. See if you can squeak through the back-to-school period long enough to take you to the BTS sales that are sure to follow this crazy season. A new backpack bought in October can be half the price it is now.

Keep It Simple: Keep things generic and gender neutral. It’s much easier to pass along backpacks and other items if they are not hot pink or covered in characters. I learned that one the hard way. Suddenly my kid, who would only carry a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack, went off Thomas as fast as it takes to flip a switch. I am cursing that darn backpack as it gathers dust and takes up valuable space in my mud room.

What You Do Need

Organize Appointments: Book all the kiddo appointments for before school starts—doctor visits, eye and ortho exams, etc. You will have fewer missed school days and less driving later on. Invest some time now and it will make things less hectic later on. Time is money. Your time is valuable.

Label Everything: Label all the items that go into your kids' backpack, plus the bag itself! Involve your child in selecting the label design to encourage them to take pride in their belongings, which will further avoid losses. Mabel’s Labels stick to just about anything listed on back-to-school checklists which is how you can avoid visits to the lost and found bin or closet at your child’s school.

Here’s hoping everyone has a smooth transition back to school—and that no one breaks the bank along the way!