For hundreds of kids and parents, there is hardly anything quite as exciting as the first day of school. For some kids, it marks the first milestone in the world of academia. For others, it marks the last time walking into a semester of scheduled education. But, for all the parents and guardians out there supporting those academic endeavors, the approaching first day of school marks a stressful urgency to get the most and best supplies to help kids on their journey.

With back-to-school shopping in full swing, it is as important a time as ever to make sure you are financially ready to take on the academic year. With the proper preparation, you can easily avoid needing debt settlement from the get-go and can prepare your family for an exciting new time filled with after school events, weekend birthday parties, and countless memories.

Get a Direct Supply List

One of the simplest and best lessons to learn when it comes to how to save money on back-to-school-shopping is to get an official supply list. Many teachers, especially those in elementary and middle school, provide specific lists to parents before the year even begins. The lists are usually pretty limited so that you do not have to worry about what your child may or may not need in the coming weeks. For those teachers who do not provide specific shopping lists, you can still reach out to them to find out what your child will need for the duration of the class.

Having this list is a fundamental guide for ensuring your children are fully prepared without you going fully broke. Kids tend to want all of the newest and coolest school items, and while the sales can be enticing, they are not always totally necessary.

Seek Out Shopping Sales

But just because you do not need every single one of those sale items does not mean you shouldn’t embrace their value. Back-to-school shopping sales are one of the highlights of the end of summer vacation. Dozens of retailers will offer cheaper items that you can buy in bulk. Many cities also host tax-free back-to-school weekends, so those sales come with even better discounts.

Go Through Old Supplies

Understanding how to save money on back-to-school shopping means understanding a fundamental environmental lesson — reduce, reuse, recycle. While new notebooks and pens and other items are super exciting for kids, they are not always totally necessary, especially if you are dealing with a tight budget. Regardless of the level of education you are shopping for, there is a good chance that you can apply those three R’s to your supply list.

Your notebooks, for example, are easily reusable. Most students do not completely go through notebooks during any given academic year. If you look, you will probably find that many were only halfway used, at most, which means there is plenty of paper that will go to waste if you automatically purchase new notebooks. Rather than splurging on new notebooks at the beginning of the year, encourage the kids to finish using the old notebooks or combine unused loose-leaf paper into a binder for them.

Don’t Go Overboard

All the flashy deals and the excitement for being back with classmates and steps closer to academic goals can make everyone a little wallet-heavy when they head to the stores. To prevent going into debt from day one of the semester, keep one simple thing in mind — supplies do not run out. It is not necessary to purchase supplies for the entire year right away, because there is a good chance that your kids will not even need them.

The best plan of attack to buy just one or two notebooks — unless otherwise specified by teachers — and a single pack of pens and pencils. If you need more, there will still be supplies available for purchase, and they may even be cheaper later on in the academic year when they are not in sudden high demand.

Go Used

Like most college students out there, it is quite likely that back-to-school collegiate shoppers want to avoid too much credit card debt in college, especially at the beginning of the semester. When looking for ways on how to save money on back-to-school shopping, a great option is to go for used items. Go thrift store shopping for clothes and dorm room furniture ask upperclassmen and Greek life friends for old notebooks and supplies as they graduate.

Even textbooks, which are notoriously expensive and can cause several hundreds or thousands of dollars bought brand new, can be significantly cheaper when rented or bought used. Many college students can get away with spending $100 or less on textbooks a semester by renting or opting for used books.

Buy in Bulk

School shopping tends to be a trip for parents and their kids, but one of the most cost-effective strategies is to actually get all your friends involved in the process. It is often significantly cheaper to buy staple items like notebooks, loose-leaf paper, writing utensils, and other office supplies in bulk. Parents of young children may be able to round up members of the PTA to purchase supplies and college students can easily work with friends and organization members to purchase stuff they need as well.

Get One-on-One Advice

Saving money is an essential part of thriving financially. School shopping can seem like a daunting time for your bank account, especially if you are a first-time college student or a parent with multiple children. If you are ever unsure of what your options are or how to save money on back-to-school shopping, all you have to do is contact a trusted debt relief specialist. Liberty Debt Relief can help answer any and all questions you may have and help you see how you can save money on supplies and spend more time making memories with your family this school year.

‘Tis the season of sunny days, which means there is no better time to take a trip to the place of your dreams. Planning such a trip should be one of the best feelings, especially as it gets closer and closer to the planned dates. For many people, however, these vacations often end up as a source of stress because of the expense. Fortunately, though, there are plenty of ways to plan an affordable summer vacation that helps you destress, unwind, and enjoy the moment without fretting over bills.

Start Early

When looking at how to plan an affordable vacation, it is always best to start as early as possible. If you know you want to have a debt free summer next year and enjoy a little trip, spend at least 9 months planning. This will give you time to save money so you are not scrambling at the last minute to figure out how you will afford everything. Additionally, you can use your vacation as a gift idea to family and friends over the holidays. Ask for vacation clothes, coupons, or even simply money towards your trip fund.

Set a Spending Limit

To truly have an affordable summer vacation you have to know what you can afford. Take some time to go over your income and expenses from now until a month or so after your planned vacation. Once you see all of your bills and mandatory expenses and how much money you will have after those are paid, you can begin to shift around how you will save up. It is especially important to look at these numbers for the time after your vacation as well, as many people tend to overspend while on vacation, forgetting that they have rent, mortgage, or utilities due the week after their return.

Once you have determined exactly how much you can spend on the vacation, stick to it. It also may help to use cash on the vacation and leave the credit cards at home. When you only use cash, you have a finite amount and it often works as a tangible reminder to people to be weary of excessive vacation spending and stay on track.

Seek Out Low-Cost Activities

To help with this safe spending limit, it is always a good idea to plan your activities ahead of time. You do not have to plan every single moment, but by planning the bigger activities earlier, you can often get great deals and save a little money in the process. A major component of how to plan an affordable vacation successfully is knowing what parts of the vacation will fit into your budget.

Consider looking at low-cost day trip excursions, free local festivals, public beaches, holiday events, and even low-cost shopping. If you are more of an adventure seeker, call around to different companies that you are interested in doing something with and see if they are willing to beat competitor pricing. It may not always work, but many times, companies are very willing to work with you to make sure they earn your business.

Bunk Up

Families everywhere are on a mission to have the ultimate affordable summer vacation, which may make it easier for your family to be successful in doing so. If you are taking your family on a vacation, see if there are any other families you know that are planning to do the same. Avoiding debt this summer can be as simple as sharing costs with others. Families often want to go to similar places and do similar things on trips, so you may be able to work together to split a hotel or cabin as well as car fare.

If you are an individual, you can try to do a similar option. See if any of your friends are willing to split the cost of an Airbnb, hotel room, and food during the trip. Simply doing this can help you save hundreds of dollars on a trip that can be used for other activities or just to save some money.

Book a Spot with a Kitchen

When you are trying to learn how to plan an affordable vacation, always remember the basic needs you will need to meet on the trip. The largest part of any vacation budget tends to revolve around food. If you are going to a popular tourist area especially, food can be very expensive, and those who have families of four or five can easily spend $500 a day on food alone between meals and treats.

Consider staying in a spot where you have a kitchen or microwave for some of your meals. Many condos, bed and breakfasts, and AirBnB’s are a great option to do this. Then you can take a trip to a grocery store on the first day of your trip and stock up on granola bars, cereal, sandwiches, and other food and snack items so you can spend less money on eating out and more money on experiencing various activities on the trip.

Seek a Planning Expert

Whenever in doubt about a financial decision or planning, it is always best to reach out to someone you can trust. Liberty Debt Relief’s debt relief specialists, for example, can provide some great insight on how you can eliminate your debt today with a debt relief program so you can start planning for your vacation tomorrow. They will help you comb through your budget, income, and expenses and can provide you with plenty of trusted resources so that you can effectively plan for the trip of your dreams without furthering your debt.

Summer is the best time to share new experiences with your loved ones. Don’t let those experiences come with the cost of lowering your financial stability. Start planning your affordable summer vacation now and have a trip that you — and your wallet — will be thankful for the rest of your life.