It’s that time once again. Back to school season is here at last! Whether you greet this news with anticipation or dread, the fact remains that preparations must be made. From your perspective, you want your kids to have everything they’ll need to succeed on that first day. From your kid’s perspective, the opportunity to get some cool new clothes may be the only consolation to losing the carefree freedom of summer.

Unfortunately, back to school can get extremely expensive.

We’d like to help you out with that and offer some money-saving tactics to send your kids back to school prepared and in style without going broke.

1. Take Stock

Many schools provide students with a list of supplies they are likely to need for the year. Before you simply take that list to your store of choice, see how much you can check off from supplies you already own. You’d be surprised what you can scratch together when you try.

It’s also helpful to set a specific budget for how much you’re willing to spend. That way you are prepared for how much you’re going to spend and will be less tempted to get things you may or may not need. This is especially important if you didn’t get a suggested supplies list and are left to make an educated guess about your child’s needs.

2. Look for Back to School Sales

Between late July and early August, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing advertisements for back to school specials from various different stores. Don’t just shop aimlessly. Review your needs and plot out an action plan to attack the stores with the best deals. This may mean going to different stores, which can be a hassle, but it could also save you a lot of money. Groupon can be a great resource as well. They even have their own back to school section; featuring major brands like Best Buy and Staples.

3. Get Thrifty

The beauty of a pop culture so steeped in both retro trends and irony is that thrift stores and hand-me-downs are actually in fashion. That $100 you’d spend for a pair of pants at a name-brand store will go exponentially farther at a Goodwill and without the stigma it once carried.

4. Skip the School Lunch Plan

School lunches have gotten expensive and can often be of questionable quality. In the long run, it’s much cheaper to buy snack foods in bulk, redistribute them into smaller portions and send your kid to school with their own lunch. You can save even more money by making leftover friendly dinners and stretching them into multiple meals.

Back to school is an exciting time, but it doesn’t have to be an overly expensive one. If you have any other tips on how to get the kids ready for the new school year in affordable ways, please leave them in the comments. Let’s make this year a successful one!