Getting kids ready for a return to school can be an expensive endeavor, especially if you have a back to school supply budget. This is especially true if you don’t take the time to figure out exactly what you need (and don’t need) to purchase for the coming school year. Organization is a big money saver, but there are also a number of other steps you can take to reduce the cost of back to school shopping. Here are some to consider:
Many stores have started having back to school sales. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to decide which store to choose and what to buy. If you’re a smart shopper, you’ll not only have a list of what you need to buy, but you’ll compare prices. Some stores might have a backpack for $15.99, while a different store might have it for $9.99. Obviously you want to go with the cheaper option, right? Whether you use newspaper flyers or online flyers, make sure you compare prices so you know what the best deals are.
Check Before You Buy
Anyone who has spent time buying school supplies knows that sometimes you end up buying more than you actually need. Before you rush off to scoop up the best deals, check around your house or apartment to see if you already have those items. For instance, if your child’s back to school list includes markers or crayons, make sure you don’t have some lying around. After all, is it really necessary that they have a nice new box?
Buy Bulk Items
Let’s say you have three children and they all need five notebooks apiece. Some stores will sell notebooks for as low as $1, but that’s still $15 for all those notebooks. On the other hand, some store or online retailers might offer a package of 10 notebooks for $5. For two packs of 10, you’re only paying $5 and saving yourself a little money. Of course, bulk items aren’t a smart purchase for all school supplies, but for those you go through quickly, it might be a wise investment.
Check Student Discounts
Many retailers love promoting their items through huge discount sales. If you’re looking at key technology or furniture pieces before going off to college or boarding school, it might be wise to wait until these sales. Wouldn’t you rather have 30% off your new computer than pay full price? Of course, many of these discounts and deals are limited time only, so know when to shop and make sure you know what you want. Too much hesitation over an item might mean that you miss out on the deal.
Shop on Tax-Free Holidays
A lot of states have a tax-free holiday during the summer, usually right before the school season gets underway. While you might not think the tax on a 50 cent folder will be that much, tax definitely adds up. If you plan to shop for back to school items during a tax free holiday, you could save as much as 10 or 15%! That’s money you definitely want to keep, right?
Some people are adamant that they need high quality, brand name items. But does it really matter what brand your ruler or notebook or pens are as long as they get the job done? Generic items are usually cheaper and are perfectly usable throughout the school year. Before you buy those name brand supplies, think about the fact that you’re paying money for the name.
Shop All Year Round
If you’re a smart shopper, you know that deals last all year round. Sometimes there are great back to school sales in January or April, at a time when no one is interested in buying school supplies. Stock up throughout the year so that you can save the most money. Not to mention, you’ll save yourself the time and effort of having to struggle through the crowds when July and August roll around.
Host a Back to School Swap
If there are plenty of other parents with kids in your neighborhood or workplace, think about hosting a back to school supply swap. One parent might have more notebooks than they know what to do with. You might have a couple extra backpacks. See what items you can get through swapping. Not only will it be an interesting social activity, but you might really get lucky and score all those items on your kid’s list!
Take Advantage of Rewards Programs
If you frequently shop at stores such as Staples or Office Max, sign up for their rewards programs. What’s the use of spending hundreds of dollars a year without seeing anything in return? Many of those stores offer points programs and allow you to use them toward future purchases. If you shop there enough, you might have some significant savings on your school supplies.
In this economy, everyone is looking for the best coupon deals. While coupons for your preferred stores are great and will definitely save you money, why not bring in a competitor coupon as well? Some stores will honor a competitor who has a lower price – even if the difference is only a dollar! The next time you’re in your preferred store, try this and see if you can get them to lower the price.
(photo courtesy of stevendepolo)