4 Budget-Friendly Ways to Navigate Back-to-School Disasters

No matter how well we prepare, the start of the school year always comes with unforeseen setbacks, last-minute challenges, and perhaps even a disaster or two. It’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed when something goes awry, but it is not the end of the world — though it may seem that way to your child or teen. In these moments, parents are given opportunities to not just work harder but to also work smarter. 

From clothing disasters to lost school supplies, hitches and obstructions are bountiful during the first month of school. They can be stressful to our minds as well as our budgets. Here are a few budget-friendly ways you can plan, prepare, and maybe even prevent back-to-school disasters.

Clothing Crisis

Almost all public schools have a dress code, and some even require students to wear uniforms. When you gave your teen cash to purchase back-to-school clothes, you told him to make sure he followed the rules and chose outfits that were appropriate and in code. So, during the first week of school when your teen calls to say he is being sent home for being out of compliance with the rules, you’re more than a little surprised (and maybe even a bit miffed). It happens — kids, especially teens, will try to stretch the limits of what they can get away with. It’s unlikely you can return the offending items, but you can save some money buying new clothes when you look for sales and cashback rewards from Old Navy, sales and discounts from Kohl’s, and deals and special offers from Macy’s.   

Sleep Cycle

Teens are on a different sleep cycle than kids and adults, needing more sleep and at different times. For example, most teens’ melatonin — the chemical that starts us yawning — doesn’t release until 11 p.m. In many cases, that is simply too late for them to get the eight to 10 hours a night they need. This means, as parents, you have to get creative about making sure your teen gets the right quality — and the right amount — of sleep. Why is sleep so important? Well, for one, teens who get a consistent good night’s rest tend to have higher academic performance, stronger self-esteem and a reduction in hyperactivity. One way to maintain good sleep habits is to make sure they go to bed at the same time, at least on school nights but preferably every night. It’s also a good idea to make sure their bedding is breathable and mattress comfortable without doing severe damage to your budget in the process.

Missing Supplies

The average teenager has nearly 20 hours of homework each week. Maybe you didn’t look at the supply sheet close enough, or maybe your child didn’t tell you what he needed. However, it’s not uncommon for them to come home with a note about important, but missing, materials or supplies. If you’re lucky, you have the weekend. In most cases, however, your child will need to bring this item to school ASAP. These last-minute expenses can be tricky to navigate. However, coupon codes can — again — come to your rescue. Looking for coupons and sales for stores such as Staples can help you save money while getting the items you need.

Inspiring Space

It may take more than a month or even two, but at some point, your child or teen might see a dip in his or her grades. Nothing could be more distressing for a parent. One way to encourage your teen to persevere is to give them at workspace at home that keeps them engaged, motivated and upbeat. First, be sure their desk is the right size for them and that they have a comfortable, ergonomic chair to sit in. Many retailers, like Pottery Barn, offer discounts when you sign up for email or mailing lists, so be sure to take advantage of those offers to stay budget-friendly. When giving your child a space to study, be sure it is well-lit and organized.


Back-to-school can be a stressful time for kids and adults — and not always for the same reasons. The more you plan and prepare for the first few months, the more your child will have a low-stress start for success. While you can’t always predict or prevent disasters, you can lessen the negative financial impact by looking for ways to protect your budget.

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