I’ve talked with several people lately about how back to school shopping for their kids is so expensive. They are surprised by how much some items cost and even if they aren’t surprised, they feel like it’s never really in the budget. With a little bit of planning, however, it doesn’t have to be such a shock to the finances every year. I’ve also talked with friends who, while they agree it’s an expensive time of year, they feel they’ve mastered a few techniques to better manage the damage.

Here are some of the things those who feel more prepared are doing that you could help you get ready for back-to-school going forward.

1) Get next year’s supply list now. If your child is in 2ndgrade this year, go to the 3rd grade teacher and get the supply list for that class as well. Retailers know that parents need stuff right now, so you’ll pay full price. Wouldn’t it be better if you knew what you needed when that stuff goes on sale? Stocking up a year ahead of time can save you big bucks next summer.

I’ve heard some people say they were able to get a box of crayons for $.17 and notebooks for $.20. Wow! It’s best to buy staple items like notebooks, pens, pencils, paper, glue, folders, and pencil sharpeners, just in case the supply list changes a bit before your kid is ready for that next grade.

2) Add your kids as a line item in your budget. Consider setting aside spending money for each child. You could start that now, at the beginning of next year as a beginning of the year goal, or even next year in May when school is out, but the key is to start saving at least a few months out. The money adds up over time. To make it fit in the budget, you may have to cut back in other places. Check out some ideas on ways to save that you may not have thought of.

3) Take advantage of tax-free weekend, but don’t wait until then to start shopping. There are definitely savings to be had during tax-free weekends, but you might find items on sale during that weekend are actually cheaper when fewer people are likely to be shopping for back to school items. Find out when your state’s tax-free weekend is this year and start planning ahead for what you’ll stock up on.

4) Think ahead when buying clothes. As long as you have the closet space, shop the next size up when clothes are on sale. Even if you just get at least two weeks of clothing for your kid to start school and purchase remaining pieces over time to add to their closet, you might feel less pressure. You also won’t be forced to buy at a time when things are expensive, just because they happen to outgrow everything and don’t have anything to wear at that time. Sure, he’s a size four now, but if size five is on sale, use the money you set aside for him and get the next size up – he’ll need them eventually! (just be careful not to go crazy on trendy items and focus on the basics with this strategy)

5) Make money off those old clothes and shoes. As your kids outgrow their clothing, consider selling it at a place like Once Upon a Child that buys gently worn clothing for others to be able to purchase from that store. Then, use the funds you make to replenish items in your kids’ closet. You can replenish it with gently used clothing from that same store or new clothing. Either way, you’re in control.

If you have young kids, back to school time is going to roll around for many years to come, so it’s a good idea to establish some money-saving habits now. Planning ahead and making the most of sales year-round can relieve a lot of the stress so you don’t feel like you have to borrow against your 401(k) or add to a high interest rate credit card balance that isn’t in your budget in order to get what your kids need for school.