My oldest daughter just started kindergarten and I’m quickly realizing school is going to be more expensive than I’d anticipated.

Though I was ready for some expenses, like clothes, lunches, and supplies, others – like the classroom cleaning supplies and tissues – caught me by surprise.

Here are the ways I’ve been trying to keep back-to-school costs down:

Buy A Year’s Worth of Supplies Now

School supplies aren’t going to be any cheaper than they are right now. Stocking up for the whole year (while crayons are a dollar a pack) makes more sense than paying three dollars in a month.

You don’t have to go overboard either. Just grab a couple extras of what your children regularly use. This way, you’ll have them on hand when it comes time to replenish.

Don’t Pack Prepackaged Food

If you’re going to be packing your kids’ lunches, then skip the prepackaged items.

Since my oldest daughter is a picky eater, we’ve opted to pack her lunch instead of buying it. I went to the grocery store to stock up on lunch foods and I was blown away by the price of prepackaged lunches.

For instance, a pizza lunch kit containing three small pizzas, a mini Butterfinger bar, and a Capri Sun ran about $8. Considering how little food is included, the price is pretty ridiculous.

Instead, it would be much cheaper and healthier to avoid prepackaged food altogether. I’m packing my daughter some variations of grapes, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, carrots, cheese sticks, and a juice box.

Does Your School Offer Free Lunches

Some states have programs that let lower income folks pay for school lunches at a reduced rate. Be sure to…

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