San Diego Financial Literacy Center

Better Budgeting to Avoid Credit Card Debt While Back-to-School Shopping

Whether it’s getting prepared to leave town for a final year of college or preparing the little one for the first day of preschool or kindergarten, the end of summer brings new expenses and the possibility of adding to your credit card debt. Like any other annual expense, planning ahead is essential to staying on budget and avoiding additional debt. If back-to-school shopping is something that you find yourself doing every year, you should plan for it year-round.

In your current monthly budget, add a section to save money for back-to-school expenses. It may seem awkward to plan for something like this, but when it is time to go shopping, you will be happy to leave the credit cards at home. The amount that you need to budget will vary depending on how much you usually spend on back-to-school shopping. A great way to do this is to set aside a pre-determined amount of money every month so it will become habit like your other monthly expenses. As with most expenses, it’s less stressful to save for a purchase or an event, as opposed to having to pay off credit card debt that would otherwise result from it. Besides, if you save money instead of borrowing money, interest rates work for you, not against you.

When back-to-school shopping, try to not pay full price for any item. Retail stores are aware that a large percentage of the population is out spending money this time of the year, so chances are good that the item that you are looking for is on sale somewhere nearby. Stores are also shopping around for customers and it’s in their best interest to offer competitive deals. At times a store will offer a heavy discount on one item in hopes that you will buy other items at regular price. Starting your purchases early is the key to finding things on sale. You should also read through and understand what the terms are for any special financing offers on laptops and other electronics.

Of course don’t forget online shopping. You can find great deals on anything on sites such as,, or Often they have free shipping, which helps your bottom line. The one issue here may be the urge to not pay back the credit card in full when the next billing cycle comes around. Occasionally people fall into credit card debt due to unforeseen events, but it’s important to avoid falling into debt for things that can be anticipated in advance. Remember budgeting is the key to avoiding debt.

Lecture Hall for blogIf college is the destination this fall, be sure to understand the ins and outs of budgeting. Applying them can lead to a far more rewarding college experience. Understand the terms of any student loan before you accept the loan and look into the different types that are available. Do you know the difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized loan? Government-funded or private? These are all questions that you should research before you make decisions on loans.

Look to save money on everything you buy, especially textbooks. Always look to see if you can buy them on campus or online for less.

Regardless of what point in the education process you find yourself and your children, from going off to college or to kindergarten, back-to-school expenses can land you in unwanted credit card debt. Added credit card debt and the stress that comes with it is not the way that you want to start off another school year. If you find yourself stressing about back-to-school shopping this year and have to rely on credit cards to make the necessary purchases, prepare for next year. First, pay off your debt which you accrued as soon as possible. After, this year’s debt has been paid off and you’re not paying finance charges, start saving for next year’s back-to-school shopping.

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