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It’s August and for many that means back to school time. I hope you have done all you can to make the summer of 2016 special and memorable for your family. There is still time for another last minute fling, beach day, movie, or camping trip. But it’s also time to wrap your thoughts around getting ready for back to school.

Back to school means shopping for new shoes, clothes and usually a back pack stuffed with a long list of items the teacher wants your kids to have.

Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. If finances are an issue in your situation, this is more stressful than Christmas. Here are my best tips for stretching the dollars, while your kids get excited about their first days back.

Uniform exchanges. Through middle school, my kids wore uniforms. Early on the school did not have a uniform exchange. So I asked. Sure enough there was a closet with bags and bags of uniforms, I only had to know the sizes I needed, dig, and donate back the ones the kiddos out grew. If your kid’s school does the uniform thing, see if there is an exchange, if not, get some parents together and start one.

School Supplies. Local organizations and churches have school supplies and back pack giveaways. I Googled “back to school supplies free,” along with the county and state I live in, and ten plus sites came up. Check on the locations and times and go with the necessity list from the school. Trust me, you will get to pay it forward before you know it.

Thrift shops and garage sales. Three of our four kids shop regularly as adults for their families at thrift shops. They learned it at home. It makes sense. Most kids out grow perfectly good clothes, in perfectly good condition. Thrift stores are the secret hide out for great kid’s clothes, for far less than department store prices. It takes a little longer to sort through the racks, but the pay-out is great cloths for a friendly price.

Ask. Don’t be shy to ask for the specifics you may still need for the kids. Shoes, calculators or whatever may be the short-fall of your budget. Communicate with your ex if possible for items. Grandparents often want to do something special for back to school. Your church or Sunday school class may want to help also. But they won’t know if you don’t speak the need.

It may seem easier to bust out the credit card and run up some bills you can’t afford. From personal experience, I caution against this. This situation won’t last forever, and there are resources available, many times provided by those who have walked in your shoes and want to pay it forward.

Do you have any great ideas for keeping the cost of back to school in check? I’d love if you would share below.

Stop by next week and let’s talk about getting the back to school schedule and routine going ahead of time. I’m praying for you.