This post is by Lindsay Nichols. I LOVED learning her tips and tricks for saving on back to school.
I have a love/hate relationship with the month of August. I love the dog days of summer – enjoying family time with the kids, the smell of freshly cut grass, swimming under the hot summer sun and eating popsicles to stay cool from the inside out. I’m grateful that when the kids are home for several weeks it allows us to have treasured time together; I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
However, as much as I enjoy making summer memories, I know that right around the corner is the first day of school and I dread the expenses of back-to-school shopping. I face each start of another school year with dollar signs in my eyes. The beginning of a new school year means that I’m about to get hit with a bunch of expenses, and that I’ll need to shell out my hard-earned money for supplies, clothes, and packed lunches…sigh.
There’s really no way avoid the back-to-school expenses (at least you know they’re coming!), but there are ways that you can plan to save rather than overspend for supplies, clothes and meals. I’ve put together 9 tips that will help you make the right decisions both for your kids and for your pocket book.
Top 9 Money Saving Tips for Back-to-School Shopping
Avoid the Rush
It’s tempting to shop for supplies and new clothing right before school starts, especially when you start seeing back-to-school commercials and start getting inundated by ads. The stores all know that leading up to the first day of school they can lure you in (and they don’t give discounts). If you’re able to plan ahead, buy supplies earlier in the summer or wait until after Labor Day (especially for clothing purchases) when things are on sale.
You don’t have to buy everything at name brand stores. Often you can find great used items at thrift stores, on Craig’s List, or at garage sales (which you should be frequenting during the summer anyhow). Try making a list of what you’ll need for the following year in the spring before the school year is over. Keep that list with you and slowly stock up all summer on items you’ll need for fall.
Try the Dollar Store
Schools are providing less and less in terms of supplies than they used to due to budget cuts. This means your shopping list for supplies is probably getting longer (and more expensive). Did you know that you can find great deals on supplies (like calculators) at the dollar store? Give it a try!
Have the Kids Earn it
When it comes to wants vs. needs, put some of the responsibility back in the kids’ court. If they are dying for the latest fashions and these are out of your budget, have them do chores around the house and give them an allowance during the summer months. When it comes time to shop for back-to-school clothes, have the kids chip in (this is a great way to teach them financial responsibility at a young age).
Buy Cheap, Buy Twice
Sometimes the cheapest option is not the best option. I’m a true believer that for certain items, if you buy cheap, you’ll be buying the same item over and over. It will behoove you to spend money on things like a nice backpack or lunch sack as long as it will last for several years. You might get hit with a bigger expense upfront, but you’ll be able to eliminate this from your budget for the next few years.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk makes sense when you have to buy supplies for several kids and when you are buying items for school lunches. If you need to buy pencils and pens for 2 or more kiddos, try buying a larger box and splitting it between them. When it comes to items for school lunches, don’t buy the individually packaged nuts, chips, or fruit snacks. Buy these items in bulk and separate them out into individual servings. BONUS: use reusable containers rather than baggies!
Pay Attention to the Day of the Week When you Shop
It might be easiest for you to shop on Saturdays, but this is not a day when you’ll usually find bargains. Usually Sunday and Monday are the best days to shop for new items in stock or when stores cut prices through markdowns of current inventory. If you’re not sure, a quick Google search will usually tell you which days you can find deals at the big chain stores.
Use Coupons and Apps
You might never know that you’re missing out on a deal if you don’t look for coupons before you go shopping. Again, a quick Google search will help you take advantage of store discounts. If you frequent certain stores, download their apps and look for discounts (hint: Target) so that you can save money when you’re shopping.
Do your kids go to school with others in your neighborhood or church groups or sports teams? Team up with other parents and make lists to see if there are any common items that you might need. If so, buy larger quantities and split them up.
Soak up those last days of summer while you have the chance! Put your mind at ease knowing you now have the tools to make good back-to-school shopping decisions. The only thing left for you to do is prepare for a quiet home during the day. That’s not so bad, is it?