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Get a head start on your back-to-school shopping, by following these top budgeting tips. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Stock image

Dubai: When you need it, you won't find it - perhaps this statement holds true most for stationery items. Whether you need some craft supplies for a last-minute project or your child needs a new pencil, it can be quite frustrating when you do not have the right stationery item at the right time. Here is how you can make sure this never happens and having everything in stock as a schoolgoer's parent doesn't cost you a fortune either.

Step 1. Make a list

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It is crucial to not go into a discount market in the UAE without a list – everything looks cheap! So, to make sure you do not buy things unnecessarily, it is important to look at the year’s requirements for your child or children and make a list of all that they will need. From the biggest purchases, like shoes and school bags to the tiniest ones, like sharpners, white-outs or pencil erasers, make a detailed list of all that you need.

Take a look at any notes the school might have sent before the start of school, specifying any item your child might need. Perhaps there is a science fair coming up and your child might need an extra supply of foam sheets or water colours … factor in as much as you can and make an exhaustive list.

Step 2. Check your stock

Nothing costs a household more than a disorganised pantry, store room or cupboard. Clear out your stationery supply from the previous year and strike off items that you already have. You never know when you might have bought a box of pens or markers that were hiding in a cosy nook in the cupboard.

Step 3. Check if shopping from the school store is optional

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Many schools tie up with trading companies in the UAE or out of the country to offer parents an easy way to shop for all that they need. While shopping from the school store can make the process very simple, with everything from shirts, books and belts to extra notebooks being bought in one go, this can be expensive.

Some schools insist that children buy certain items like a school bag or uniform from the school store. Speak to your school administration as well as other parents to check if this is compulsory or if there are options. You can save a lot of money by shopping for these items separately.

Step 4. Know where you should spend

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It is important to not try to save money on big purchases that will last for a long time. The right school shoe needs to be comfortable and durable. This can be a big purchase. The same goes for school bags. If the bag isn’t sturdy, it can put unnecessary strain on your child’s shoulders, back and neck. It is best to budget your expense to leave a lot more room to spend on the big purchases.

Step 5. Stationeries do not need to be expensive

There are certain items that you simply do not need to spend too much on. Pencils, erasers, sharpners and paint are available in several discount shops in the UAE. Hypermarkets like Carrefour, Lulu and Union Co-operative offer deals on bulk purchases close to the back-to-school season at the end of August every year. Other options include Daiso, Dh5-10 shops like Discount Market or Day-to-Day. It is best to buy in bulk as much as possible, but do not get carried away and shop more than you can store or need. This is where adding quantities to your list in Step 1 can be extremely helpful in spending less.

Step 6. Look for seasonal offers

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There are some items that you simply should not buy in advance or even close to the occasion. It is best to plan out and shop for items like Halloween costumes or Eid-themed gift boxes soon after the occasion is over as shops might be selling them on heavy discounts.

Step 7. Use social media and buy online

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You might not be a tech savvy parent, but that should not stop you from taking advantage of the great offers that most supply stores have during this season. Check their websites or Facebook pages to search for deals. Alternately, join Facebook parent groups in your vicinity or school.

Chances are parents are selling old uniforms, text books or additional supplies that could cost you a fortune at a store. If you are already friends with parents in your child's class, create a WhatsApp group to buy, sell or even swap items between each other. You could also buy things in bulk or help each other find good bargains.

By following these simple steps, not only would you be able to spend a lot less every back-to-school season, you will also reduce the stress of last minute shopping-trips.