Back-to-school time can be a curse and a blessing for most parents. While your kids are back at their desks full-time, you can drop a fortune on back-to-school essentials now that inflation has hit a record high.

While the national average is hovering around 9%, places like Anchorage and Mat-Su in Alaska are struggling under the highest inflation hikes in the country, where prices have increased by 12% from last year.

Whether you live in Alaska or not, inflation is changing how you shop for school. If you’re stuck, here are some tips to help you budget for this expensive time of year.

Make a Back-to-School Budget

Your budget gives you a bird’s eye view of all your family’s usual spending. Hit pause on toys, tech, takeout, and a number of expenses that don’t start with “t” for a couple of months before, during, and after the start of school.

By limiting how much you splurge, you can limit how often you have to dip into your credit cards. But if you did wind up putting all your shopping on credit, follow this strict budget until you pay off your credit.

A credit card can be a life-saving cushion for when you can’t wait to shop for school supplies. And with many cards offering bonuses and rebates, it may be a smart way to maximize your purchasing power.

Use Credit Wisely

Don’t over-rely on credit, even for the sake of your kids’ success in the classroom. Maxing out your cards means you can’t rely on these accounts in an emergency. And what then?

If your car breaks down or your kid needs to see a doctor urgently, you can try for an Alaska line of credit for help. While you can walk into any bank to ask for one, you can also find a personal line of credit in Alaska online, which can come in handy if you live in rural parts of the state.

Like credit cards, an Alaska line of credit may apply interest and/or finance charges to your purchases until you pay them off in full, so use your budget to plan how you’ll pay them off fast.

Buy Things in Increments

Sending your kids to school on day one with a backpack full of supplies does feel good, but this technique is definitely more expensive.

It’s easier to lay off credit cards and lines of credit by shopping in drips and drabs. You might find it easier to stretch your paycheck and savings without dropping the ball on other bills.

Don’t Stray from the List

Try shopping exclusively from the list provided by your kids’ teachers. This way, you can avoid wasting money on things that will only collect dust in their lockers.

Check Out Your Community Resources

If you’re still struggling to balance back-to-school shopping with your usual bills, reach out for help. The following organizations in Alaska make it easier to cross off the basics when things are tight:

Bottom Line: Don’t Repeat This Next Year — Start Saving Now

Squeezing your budget in a time crunch isn’t fun for anyone. For a much more relaxed back-to-school shopping experience next year, start saving now.

If this sounds early to you, that’s the point! With nearly a full year to prepare, you can squirrel away cash whenever it makes sense for your budget, so your family doesn’t feel the crunch in a rush.