You’ve just received an impossibly long list of supplies from school and your kids are begging for trendy clothes and designer footwear. Back to school shopping is a necessary evil, but that doesn’t mean it has to cost a fortune. Here’s my advice on how to save money on everything your kids need for school, and to stock up for your home office, too.
How to save money on back to school shopping
1. Make a shopping list
Before running to the mall or hopping on your laptop, make a list. It may sound unnecessary – you know what you need, right? – but making a list can help keep you on task. There are a lot of sales out there right now, which can cause a loss of focus and a tendency to overspend. Go through last year’s school supplies, take a close look at the backpacks and lunch bags you have on hand and ask your kids to try on all their clothes to see what still fits. You may discover that some things can be carried over into the new school year.
2. Don’t blow your clothing budget
Avoid spending your whole clothing budget before school starts. The reason for this is two-fold: cooler weather clothing won’t be deeply discounted yet, so you’re better holding off on items like jackets and sweaters into we’re well into the fall. Also, for kids who care about style, it’s good to let them spend a few weeks at school so they can identify any trends they’re interested in. If you already spent your clothing budget in August, you’ll have a battle on your hands in September.
3. Designer don’ts
If your kids are begging for designer duds, take advantage of this teachable moment. Explain that you have a budget and how buying something expensive will affect that budget, i.e. “if you buy these Adidas Yeezy’s, you basically have no money left for anything else.” Try to steer them away from pricey purchases, and if they insist, insist that they contribute their own money.
4. Tax-free weekends
Just in time for the back to school shopping season, many states, including Iowa and Texas, have tax-free weekends coming up. There are restrictions on what you can save on as well as spending limits, but this link will help. If you live in a high-tax state, like Arkansas or Virginia, you could save a bundle shopping tax-free.
5. Save at the grocery store
Rather than rifling through newspaper circulars for savings on groceries and supplies, the Flipp app digitizes those circulars, so you can swipe to browse for savings and check off favorites! Flipp also has a shopping list feature to help you find local deals and keep you organized.
6. Buy in bulk
Sometimes it makes sense to buy in quantity. For items that you need a lot of, like notebooks and pens, buy in bulk! You can put your wholesale club membership to good use, buy in bulk on Amazon or at an online wholesale club, like Boxed.com, which has no membership fee and orders $49+ ship free. They have great school supply kits, too!
7. Compare prices as you shop
For online shoppers, the Wikibuy browser extension is incredibly useful. It automatically compares prices on Amazon vs. other etailers, it sources and tests coupons for you with the click of one button and keeps you posted when prices drop on items you’ve been searching for. It’s a very busy virtual assistant!
8. Look for deals
Where? In my August deals roundup, that’s where!
9. No sale? No problem
No sale? Never fear! Use a site like Gift Card Granny to look for discounted gift cards. By shopping with a discounted gift card for Target, Walmart, or wherever else you plan to shop, you’ll automatically save between 2-30%, sale or no sale. If you’re a student or teacher, check out their list of retailers who offer discounts if you show your school i.d!
10. And if you don’t have school-aged kids…
The back to school shopping season isn’t only for kids. Think about it – those e-readers, laptops, school supplies and clothes that are on sale could be for YOU.
Here’s my video about Back to School Shopping!
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