It's time to get the kids back to school, and that always means extra expenses. With the clothes, backpacks, lunch totes and school supplies, we parents can spend a small fortune. But it is possible to save with smart shopping strategies.
Here are six tips you can use to save money today.
1. Stick to Your List. Plan to take just a single trip to get all the supplies on the official school supplies list, and save the clothes and shoes shopping for another day. When you take your list along, you won't forget to buy the essentials (which can eliminate those expensive extra trips), and you won't end up with a lot of extra stuff.
You can also avoid those extraneous purchases by shopping online, where you buy just what you need and check out, without the lure of eye-catching (and more expensive) backpacks and lunchboxes. This time of year, the online office supplies stores frequently offer discounts via coupons and coupon codes ($30 off $150 and free shipping, for example). Other sites offer free gifts with purchase. You may get a free calculator, for example, with a purchase over a certain dollar amount.
2. Watch the Sunday circulars or your favorite online stores for back-to-school sales and specials. Stores slash prices at this time of year to almost ridiculous rates. You should be able to get folders and notebooks for about 10 to 25 cents each.
3. Hit the Dollar Stores. Stock up on items such as pencils, scissors and glue at the 99 cent stores. And if you belong to one of the many discount stores, such as Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ, purchase supplies in bulk throughout the year. Just keep adding to your stash of such supplies whenever the items are on sale (or whenever you have a coupon). Items such as pencils, pens, colored pencils, glue sticks and markers will never go to waste. They tend to always get used eventually, whether at school or at home.
4. Stay in Control. Kids often want those trendy items that can be more expensive. Try to steer them toward other things, or make a compromise by agreeing to buy just one trendy item. Another idea: split the cost of the more expensive item. For example, if the trendy backpack is $20 more than the one you have picked out, agree to pay the same amount toward the backpack that the backpack you chose would have cost. The child pays the difference.
5. Establish a clothing budget for each child. This allows your children to be in control of their own wardrobe (under your guidelines, of course), and it requires them to make wise spending decisions. Help your child to comparison shop once they decide what they like.
6. Don't Buy Lots of New Clothes Before School Starts. All kids love to have something new for the first day of school, but you don't need to purchase a whole new wardrobe. Many schools start before Labor Day, when the weather is still too hot for fall and winter clothes. If you shop for these items too far in advance, your child could actually outgrow an outfit before it's time to wear it. Buy one new outfit (or pair of jeans, for example) for that first day to heighten the excitement. And save the rest of the wardrobe budget for a few months down the road. If your budget does not allow for a new clothing item for each child, treat your kids to something smaller but still exciting: a new pencil bag or a new package of pencils printed with their name, for example.
Try to make back to school shopping a fun event that you share with your kids. Create a ritual around going to purchase those school supplies every year, and make it a game for your kids to stick to the list (and the budget).