Back to school time already? It seems like just the other day we were taking the kids out for ice cream to celebrate the end of the school year. For children, the anticipation of getting new clothes and picking out the latest and greatest notebook can be exciting. But for some parents, especially those who are on a tight budget, it can be a time of stress and discord. We hope these school supply savings tips can help minimize the financial strain you may be facing.
Start by scouring your home for what you may already have.
A quick look through your child’s closet and desk may reveal that you already have a good portion of what you need. Don’t forget to search through the boxes and storage bins in your garage as well.
Try civic and religious organizations.
Many of these organizations collect and re-distribute free school supplies to their local communities. Call your school, scan your newspaper, and search the internet for these events.
Check sale circulars for loss leaders (goods sold below cost).
Many of the major office supply and department stores offer pencils and notebook paper for only 1¢.
Buy only what is on your list.
If you bring your children with you when you shop for school supplies, set that expectation and get them to agree with you in advance. If necessary, buy what you can without bringing them along.
Shop at stores that price-match and use it to your advantage.
Browse the sale circulars and find out which stores have the items you need at the lowest price. Start at the least expensive store and ask them to price-match the items that are cheaper at other stores. Not only will this save you money on school supplies, but you’ll avoid driving around and wasting expensive gas.
Buy only items that are on sale.
If you wait a few weeks, an item that wasn’t on sale initially may get marked down after the mad rush for school supplies. And if you can wait a bit longer, you may benefit from the drastic price reductions stores make when they need to make room for Halloween supplies.
Don’t fall for “new” versions.
Every year it seems there is a new and fancier version of notebooks, rulers, hole punches, etc. Along with that change comes an increase in price. Don’t succumb to this marketing ploy. Quite often the original version works better and lasts longer than the new version.
Shop on sales tax holidays.
If your state has one, do your back-to-school shopping during your state’s sales tax holiday. If you can’t fit it all in during that time, at least take care of the clothes shopping, which is usually the largest expense.
Bargain shop offline and online.
Don’t forget dollar stores, thrift shops, garage sales, and Craigslist. Last year a grocery store in my area was practically giving away school supplies in order to get me to do my food shopping there.
Clip and use coupons.
Look through your newspaper, on coupon sites (like Coupons.com, SmartSource.com, and redplum), and check manufacturers’ websites directly.
Make use of hand-me-downs and hand-overs.
Get together with other moms and trade items the children have outgrown or simply don’t need anymore.
Spread out your purchases.
Teachers put together one all-inclusive list at the beginning of the year but some of the items may not be used until much later in the year—or not at all. Delay purchasing items until you are sure they’re really needed.
Differentiate between necessities and convenience items.
Yes, your student will need his or her own pens and backpack. But he or she can always borrow a stapler or hole punch from another student or the teacher.
If you’ve found other ways to ease the financial strain of sending the kids back to school, I’d love to hear about it.