Let’s get real – back-to-school shopping isn’t as fun as it used to be. When my kids were just starting school, it was a big deal to head over to Target with our list and pick everything out. Now, my kids couldn’t care less about what they get – as long as they have what’s on the list.
Cost is another reason it’s not much fun. Back-to-school shopping ranks right up there with Christmas as a major budget buster for families. But all that shopping doesn’t need to break the bank. Here are some ways to help keep back-to-school spending from getting out of control:
1. Start shopping at home
I actually begin my back-to-school prep when the kids bring home all of their stuff at the end of the year. I go through the folders, pencils, markers and more and figure out what is still good. I then put all of it in a big plastic bin and then wait for the school supply lists to arrive.
Once I have the lists, the plastic bin is the first place I “shop.” This year, the bin held enough markers, pencils, red pens and rulers to supply the kids with what they needed. My son’s art box and special art class eraser also made it through. Once we were done with the bin, I checked to see what else I may have already had around the house. For example, my son needed a binder and I had a few left from various committees I’ve been on through the years. I recycled the papers inside (which I probably should have done years ago) and soon he had a binder for language arts. Between shopping around the house and using leftover supplies from the year before, I was able to knock off nearly half the list.
The same goes for their clothes and shoes — anything that still fits is one less item we need to buy.
2. Shop thrift stores and rummage sales
Remember the binders I mentioned above? If you don’t have any at home, check out the nearest rummage sale or thrift store. Neither is a sure thing, but if they have a binder or two — or other supplies on your list — it will help you spend less money. If you don’t mind gently used clothing, these are also great places to look for kids’ clothes — especially since they often outgrow them so quickly.
3. Check out office supply stores, dollar stores and warehouse stores
Each of these types of stores offers items you’ll need — and since they’re not everyone’s first thought for school supplies, you might be able to find better deals. To save cash on facial tissues and cleaning supplies, visit your local dollar store. If you have several children and need to buy more boxes of facial tissues — this year I needed to buy five for my two children — a trip to Sam’s Club or Costco may be a better choice. Do a little math to figure out where you can find the best deal per box or roll.
For pencils, pens and paper, try an office supply store like OfficeMax — their prices are often just as good, if not better than the big discount chains. Even better, sign up for their reward programs and you’ll earn points to use toward future purchases.
4. Shop online
Don’t be afraid to look online to maximize your savings. If you’re shopping online, be sure to check out Ebates.com. Select the store you’re looking for and you can earn rebates on the amount you spend. A bonus: Ebates often has additional coupons and codes for free shipping right on the retailer’s page so you can also take advantage of even more savings.
5. Buy generic
While picking out folders at Target, I found plain folders for $.48 while the one with the cute cats was $1.50. My daughter asked for the one with the cats and I said she could get it — if she used her own money. She declined. Generic school supplies can save you lots of cash. If your children complain about having plain notebooks and folders, suggest they decorate them with their own drawings or stickers. The same goes for all the paper and cleaning supplies on your school-supply list: going generic is perfectly acceptable. Who cares if the Kleenex box is plain blue or has the characters from “Minions” on it?
6. Remember your coupons
Retailers and companies each have their coupons for different items on the school supply list, and often you can combine them for extra savings. Check the flyers, go online and do your homework. At Target, always check the Cartwheel app for extra savings.
Hopefully using some of these tips will help you save on your kids’ school supplies and make the experience a little less painful.
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