It’s amazing how fast the summer flies, and before you know it’s time to get ready for another school year, whether for preschool, kindergarten or elementary. Which can mean everything from backpacks, lunch boxes, school supplies, clothing, shoes and so much more. Here are my money saving tips based on my Mom experience including being strategic about where and what you buy.
Get organized. Make a list of what you need from school notices, after school activities (such as sports), and assessing your child’s clothing for the fall. Some schools don’t require parents to buy supplies, so double check.
Check through what you already have. Do you have school supplies leftover from last school year? Good as new items from your older siblings for a younger one?
Some schools offer the option to buy a package of all required school supplies. Consider this convenient option based on the price (vs what it would cost you to buy the items), whether you or your child prefers to pick things out yourselves, and the time savings.
Plan for what you’ll need for both at school and at home. Depending on your child’s age and school, you might want to have some duplicates of supplies at home.
Don’t be tempted to add on all kinds of items. Stores display things in an enticing way to invite you to think of other stuff you *might* need.
If your school gives you a supply list, don’t take name brands too literally. I used to go crazy visiting five stores to find the specific brand and type of supply listed which inevitably was the most expensive, too. Then I wised up. Does the exact brand impact how my kid will learn?
Be sensible if you have a limited budget. Yes, it would be nice for our kids to have the cutest designs ever but many items like tissue boxes just go to the classroom pool for everyone to use. In these cases it’s not going to make any difference if it’s cool or adorable or is one tissue box you pull out from the jumbo bulk pack you got at Costco.
Share what you need on your online Mom’s group or freebay along with any items you don’t need anymore that you could give away. If you don’t belong to any groups, ask your friends if they do or do some online searches. For example, I joined a great local freebay Facebook group when I saw other Facebook friends were members.
Get a feel for what things cost, especially for more expensive items. It’s hard to know if you’re getting a good deal if you don’t know what the retail price is.
Check out deals at warehouse stores like Costco, keeping an eye out for coupon and rebate specials. Compare prices at online sites like amazon and local discount or dollar stores.
Visit a local resale shop, especially for clothing where you might literally find tags still on items. Craigslist, garage sales and your local Nextdoor group are also resources. (Nextdoor is a private social network for neighbors.)
Watch for sales at kids clothing retailers like Gap and Old Navy. You may get special deals through their email list, facebook or twitter.
Consider using store apps for deals like Target’s Cartwheel app. Just know they do use these to track your sales. There are also general pricing and coupon apps like RetailMeNot. Check out these app tips from CNET, 11 Apps That Help You Save Money and Top Money Saving Apps for 2014 from Living Rich with Coupons.
Take advantage of sales right after school starts. Many stores like Target slash prices on school supplies a few days into the school year. (They want to make room for those Christmas items that they’re about to put on display in September!) While there are plenty of things our kids need to have for the first day of school, others can wait a little. This is great for stocking up on staples like notebooks that I need to have extras of at home.
What are your favorite cost cutting ideas for back to school shopping?