It’s time to send the kids back to school, and for many families that means an annual trip to buy school clothes and supplies.
Here are my favorite ways to save money on back-to-school shopping:
1. Buy school supply basics like paper, pencils, book covers, erasers, and folders in September, when stores put leftover items on clearance. You can also shop throughout the year for good deals, stocking up to avoid paying more during peak school supply season.
2. Take advantage of yard sales to get like-new school clothes at deeply-discounted prices.
3. Take stock of what you already have at home before going school shopping. Make a list of what’s needed, and stick to your list once you get to the store.
4. Shop online to find good prices without leaving home. Staples offers special discounts and coupons via email for online or phone orders.
5. Take along your smart phone to comparison shop quickly, ensuring you find the best prices in your area.
6. To save time, split up school supplies with a close friend or neighbor with school-aged kids. One family buys double the items on a list, and the price difference is settled once the items are split up between families.
7. Check the clearance rack for special clothing items that may be a size or two too large at a discounted price. You can always purchase a too-big homecoming dress, and take it to a tailor for alterations, rather than spend more for a similar dress that’s full price.
8. Don’t forget to browse for school supplies in unusual places. This year, I found Crayola crayons for $0.25 a box at my local drugstore, and notebook filler paper still in the wrapper for $0.50 at the thrift store.
9. Instead of paying more for fancy themed backpacks and school binders, let your kids get crafty by decorating plain supplies with iron-on patches printed from the family computer, permanent markers, or stickers. We like to purchase binders with a clear pocket on the front, so the kids can switch their theme as their tastes change throughout the year.
10. Purchase gas cards for your teenagers when your favorite gas station runs special promotions for rewards points on gift cards. Not only will you get extra rewards points, but you’ll still get rewards points when your teen uses the card to fill up. Your rewards points can be used to purchase more gift cards for holiday gifts, or to stock up when your budget gets tight.
11. Since school begins on different days for different districts, continue to look for good sales even after your child starts school. If experience shows the best sales are later in the season, try purchasing one or two new outfits for your child to wear at first — and wait to get the rest until the real sales are active.
12. Your kids don’t have to have everything on their lists before the first day of school. Determine what’s essential and what can wait.
What tips do you have for saving money on back-to-school shopping?
Btw, there's a pretty nifty tool that motivates your kids to do chores. It's called MyJobChart.com. With a free account, they can earn points for finishing jobs you assign them, good towards free merchandise. Give it a try. It's completely free!