It’s hard to believe summer’s almost over and the flurry of back-to-school shopping has begun. Parents are scurrying to get everything they need to make sure their children are well-dressed and well prepared to meet the new school year, all spit-shined and ready to learn.
Purchasing required schools supplies, clothing, and shoes for the kids adds up to big bucks and in today’s challenging economical environment, every penny counts. Although down by only a few dollars from last year, parents polled say that the average amount they are planning to spend per child is $606.40 on average.
Beyond the thrill of the hunt, saving money is important and this is the time of year that retailers are responding with lots of penny-wise sales. Small wonder retailers are pulling out all the stops to get you to spend some of that cash with them. Back-to-School is the second largest selling season for retailers, accounting for $22.8 billion in spending for children kindergarten through grade twelve. Adding in college student spending, the number increases to a whopping $68.8 billion.
Top 10 tips for saving money on back to school shopping
1. Make a List and Check it Twice. Starting with the supply list issued by your child’s school, adding in essential clothing that the kids have outgrown, create a list. Whether you create an Excel spreadsheet or choose paper and pencil, create a list for each child, with columns and headings that include: item, store name, expiration date of offer, and price. As you research prices, record them. Once you’ve completed your list with prices, review it and circle the best prices. It’s wise to purchase as many items per store as possible. Driving all over town uses lots of gas and makes shopping the sales more costly than what you can save.
2. Do Your Homework. Scour the newspapers for sales and coupons. Many stores will point you towards their website for coupons and discounts as well. As you’re out and about and see a sale, write it down.
3. Shop and Save Online. Scout the coupon sites (Coupons.com, Savings.com, MyCoupons.com) for downloadable coupons to print and use. There are also endless sites that provide these items, many at discounted prices. Be aware of shipping costs. Many of these sites offer free shipping or brick-and-mortar store pick-up. For those sites that don’t offer free shipping, it’s important to add this additional cost to the cost of the item(s) you are pricing.
4. Sort, Salvage, Recycle. Together with your child, sort through what’s left over from last year and still in decent condition. Adding decorations (tattoo stencils, stickers, laminates, etc.) and updating a notebook or backpack can add new life, is environmentally correct, and can save money.
5. Social Media. In a recent survey, 35% of parents polled said they would use FaceBook to find deals on school supplies. Search for and “LIKE” your favorite stores. They are likely to feature promotions and coupons and exclusive offers and discounts and will send out notifications by posting them on FB.
6. Wholesale Clubs (Sam’s Club, COSTCO, BJ’s ) offer supplies in bulk quantities which, per item, come out less expensive than regular priced at a retail store. If you’re shopping for more than one child, this is a source worth considering. Splitting the quantities with other parents in the same back-to-school shopping boat as you are is also a good idea. These clubs also sell children’s clothing, and sometimes, shoes. (Note: these stores require paid membership.)
7. Needs vs. Wants. There are need-to-have and nice-to-have items. Remind your child that what he or she needs may not be the same as what he or she wants. This is a good time for that kind of discussion. Stick to your list and stick to your guns if you want to get the biggest bang for your back-to-school buck.
8. Summertime is Garage Sale Time. Look for garage sales, church and community-wide rummage sales. They often sell new and gently worn children’s clothing and t-shirts that can be bought for pennies on the dollar. While you’re there, you may find bargains on book bags and other accessories.
9. Electronics. More and more, schools are requiring computers and notepads in addition to calculators. These are expensive! Research online (Amazon.com is a good start) before you buy. Again, the wholesale clubs and coupon sites offer great deals on a wide variety of electronic equipment. Once you’ve selected a device, double check on Amazon’s “comments” section for the item to see what others who have purchased it have to say. User testimonials can be very enlightening. PTA’s, church, and community organizations sometimes subsidize or offer discounts or an opportunity to purchase these from preferred sources. Check around. Other parents are also a good reference point and may know of alternative sources or discounts.
10. Ingenuity and Imagination. When are ingenuity and imagination not a good idea? You can save money by buying basic supplies over the ones that are trendy and glitzed up. Let your child go wild and decorate basics with their own flair. Tattoos, patches, designed duct tape, and stickers can transform a basic black notebook into one that the other kids will want!
Be a hero. Forward this list to parents who need to get on the back-to-school shopping bus. And if you are a grandparent and want to be a greater hero, offer to chip in and buy something for your grandchildren. You know you want to!
Other of Ellen’s articles you may enjoy:
- School’s out for the summer, all the more reason to keep kids reading
- Make your reservations now for camp grandma
- The meaning of love from the mouths of babes
- Grandparents, how will you be remembered?
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