While summer still is going strong, the hectic “back-to-school” shopping season is just around the corner. If you have school-aged children or young adults heading off to college, the next month or two easily can become one of the most expensive of the year.

Whether you are buying dorm essentials or just school clothes, shoes and supplies, those extra expenses can quickly add up. The good news is a little planning – and smart financing choices – can make the whole experience more affordable for your hard-working family.

Here are a few steps to take now:

MAKE A BUDGET. This is such an easy step, but too few of us take the time to sit down and write out a budget. As you take time to consider each item needed and estimate costs, you might find simple ways to cut back. Can any items be eliminated? For example, are there used book your college student can purchase to save money? Where can you find the best deals on the items your students can’t do without?

CHOOSE YOUR FINANCING WISELY. The fastest financing option might not be your best choice. According to July 2019 creditcards.com data, the average instant approval card had a 20.24 percent interest rate compared with the national average rate of 17.76 percent. A little bit of planning and finding lower-rate options can save you big in the long-run. Especially when you consider locally issued credit cards that offer lower annual percentage rates.

FIND WAYS TO FREE UP CASH.Some local financial institutions offer “Skip-a-Pay” promotions during the summer months. Depending on your budget, simply skipping a monthly loan payment for a modest fee might be enough to cover your back to school expenses. Longer-term solutions might include refinancing existing, higher-rate auto or other loans with your credit union.

Improving your financial health always is a good idea, even if you don’t have kids to send back to school this year. If you’re like many Americans who are carrying too much debt, creating healthier financial habits now can lead to a more enjoyable life for years to come.

Freeing up cash or paying off debts sooner doesn’t always require huge changes to your daily routine. Simple actions, such as consolidating higher-rate debts with your local financial institution, may significantly reduce your monthly payments. Enjoy the rest of your summer and here’s looking forward to a more affordable back-to-school season.

Eldon Tilley is vice president of marketing for Fort Knox Federal Credit Union