Back to School Savings!
Back to school time is already here and if you are like me…you’re dreading this back to school shopping season. Not only is it very time consuming, it’s expensive! All the little supplies add up quickly, but if we get organized, we can save a lot of money. And while we’re at it, if we plan out the whole year by looking ahead we’ll save tons of money.
So, here are some great tips to help save some money on back to school items:
1) Do a closet and desk drawer sweep: Take a quick inventory of that’s currently at home. Look in that desk drawer for pencils, pens, folders and other supplies your kids might be able to use this year. This is also a great time to raid your kid’s closets and see what clothes still fit and what they may need. Then once you made an inventory review the required supply list for the year and make your own list of items you need for the year.
2) Set a budget and stick to it: After you put your list together make sure you set a budget. Consider which items might be non-negotiable, such as items off the class supply list, and what items might allow for greater flexibility (clothing, shoes, etc). Once you set your budget try your best to stay within it. You can use the cash envelope system if you have issues sticking to your budgets where each child gets an envelope with money in it and once it is gone, no more money can be spent. This is a great time to talk to your kids about money-based values.
3) Comparison Shop to Find Best Deals: Once you have your list and budget, then you want check out the sales going on and see who has the best deals. One store might have deals on folders and pens, while another has a sale on notebooks and markers. So, you might want to make a couple of stops and plan out your route. Also don’t forget to check online for cheaper prices, some stores will match online prices. The Amazon app has barcode-scanning feature that allows you to see what that item cost on Amazon. ShopSavvy, BuyVia and ScanLife are all good price comparison apps that will help you find the best deals and current sales in the area.
4) Use Coupons: Start looking for coupons in your Sunday paper or in store flyers. You can also look online for coupons at sites like RetailMeNot.
5) Buy In Bulk: Buying in bulk can be a great way to save money and time. Some school supplies will go on clearance over the course of the school year, these normally include folders, notebooks, pencils, markers, crayons. This is when you buy enough for the whole year so you don’t have to run to the store when your child runs out. Also you might want to check Costco or Sam’s club for some supplies. You might not need 100-pack of pencils, but if you talk to your friends you might by able to pool your money to buy supplies and divide them equally.
6) Use In-Store Rewards/Savings Programs: If you are going to buy from a certain store check and see if they have a rewards/savings program first. Kohl’s, Target, ToysRUs are great examples of this. Not only do all of these have rewards programs and offer special discounts at times to members but they also offer really good rewards credit card option where you can earn or save even more. One thing to keep in mind is buying with credit makes it easier to spend more money so make sure to pay off that card right away with the budget you originally set aside. That way you don’t have to pay any interest on the balance and still get the reward benefits. Also Target has a savings app called Cartwheel (free to download) and use where they have special discounts on items. Walmart also has a savings app (Free to download), which is a price-matching tool, when you scan your Walmart receipt the app will scan circulars from top competitors in the area for the same items you bought and if it find a lower price then your paid, Walmart will refund the difference to you.
7) Save Money Through Ebates: When shopping online you can sign up for Ebates and get cash back for everything you are buying. It is as simple as finding a store on Ebates and clicking a link to that store’s website then shopping as you normally would, only Ebates will give you a percentage of cash back on your purchase at that store. Why not get money back for the shopping you are already doing.
8) Try to avoid this year "fad" items: The hottest trends are also typically the most expensive items, so avoiding them will help to save. To accomplish this you might want to go shopping alone so little ones don’t ask for all the "new/cool" supplies. I know that is easier said than done, so if you do go shopping with your kids try to limit their influence on you to buy more expensive items. Maybe let them pick out one or two special items and then save the money on the rest.
9) Hit up the Dollar Store: Many people forget about this store when it comes to school supplies, however you can find some good bargains here. You should be able to find basic supplies, such as notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, maybe more depending on the time of year you shop for it.
10) Shop at Thrift Stores and Garage Sales: Clothing and shoes get very expensive when you buy new. So by shopping at thrift stores or garage sales you will be able to find clothes and shoes still in great condition (some might even be new with tags) for dirt-cheap prices. Besides clothing these are also great places to find other school supplies. Try to look out for neighborhood garage sales or church sales. Sometimes church sales will have bag sales on the last day of the sale where you can fill a bag of clothes for $5 or less.
11) Watch Your Timing: The big school supply rush occurs late August and early January. If you want to avoid these peak times try to buy items after the rush. This is when items will go on sale or clearance for 50%-75% off retail. This is the best time to buy all the supplies for the year and even next year if possible. Now keep in mind by waiting till after the rush you might be limited in what is still available, so this is why I would buy some of the items that might sell out when the store runs sales earlier in year. One crazy item that I have had a hard time finding in-store this year is black fine-point dry erase markers (3 pack). So I had to go online to buy that one from Amazon. But hitting up the in store clearance shelves throughout the year will help with this issue as well.
An added tip that I always like to share is don’t skimp on the backpack. What I have personally realized is that cheap backpacks don’t last the whole school year. So instead of dropping $10-20 on a cheap backpack and having to buy a new one two months into the year just bit the bullet right way and go with the nice, durable, comfortable backpack for your children.
Good luck with the back to school shopping! It’s an exciting time of the year for your kids. New year, new classmates, new teacher or teachers; share the excitement with them and make it a fun shopping experience.