I stopped in at Staples on Monday to fax some blood work to my Lyme Doctor and the place was swarming with wide-eyed parents and excited children whose baskets were filled high. As I was waiting in line I got talking to a frazzled looking mother who shared with me that she can't believe that for two of her children to go back to school (one is in middle school and the other is in high school) they are going to spend more on supplies then their food bill for three weeks. (If you think that sounds crazy - some people spend more on Back to School things than a family of four uses for their grocery bill for a month. Don't believe me? The National Retail Foundation says that the average family spends $700 for Back to School supplies. And it goes up every year. Just so you know in 2009 the NRF said that the average family was only spending $549.)
I wanted to share a few tips that you might not have thought of to help save a little more money. What is necessary? What should you spend money on? What should you save money on? So here are eighteen tips- in no particular order:
1. Don't buy everything on the list As a former teacher I am here to let you know that not everything a teacher puts down on the list will be needed for the next year. Did you know that most teachers are asked to create their "upcoming school year lists" in the Spring of the previous year? It's true. Here is why this is important: in the Spring a teacher can want one thing and in the Fall something totally different. Stick to the basics and find out if your child really needs those twenty orange folders or if it will be ten red ones. *smiles*
2. Find out from the school if a teacher (or teachers) have left or they are the same from the previous year. This is easy to do and can save a ton of hassle. A friend of mine shared the experience that the list that the school gave them for her 4th grade daughter detailed specifically a few items that they literally spent weeks searching for. They finally paid a good bit of money when these items were found online only to be told a short two days before school started that the previous teacher had left and the new one didn't even want those items. (And yes, it was non-refundable. Urgh.)
3. Buy cheap pens. As a former teacher I can't even count the number of pens that I would collect in one day let alone the ones that I found in a school year that students "lost". In addition to loosing them students often
share give them to friends and they are never returned. Unless you have a child (like I was) who loves different color pens and is going to guard them with her life- invest in cheap pens. You are going to need more in a couple of weeks anyways. *smiles*
4. Don't buy an entirely new Back to School Wardrobe. Yes, I love fashion but it is much wiser to buy a new Back to School outfit (or two if you have the finances) and then set up a system to buy another new outfit in the changing seasons.
5. Buy clothes that are versatile. Remember that just like emotions that change frequently in children, so do clothes that are considered "in/cool" at the beginning of the school year change to "out of style" by October.
6. Consider a clothing swap.I have a friend whose family hosts a "clothing swap" every summer with approximately 8-15 different families. Everyone brings in a set number of items and each family contributes $5.00. Then the children (with parents if they are younger) go shopping! Any items that are left over are donated to charity and the families use the money to have a big bonfire and play a movie on a large screen outside. How fun. I seriously love this idea. Builds community and saves money! Yahoo!
7.Read the school list carefully. Just because it was on the school list last year doesn't mean that it will be on the school list this year.
8. Set a budget for your Back to School Shopping and Keep it. Am I the only one who loves all of the pretty pens, highlighters, folders, paper notebooks, paper clips that are out there? If you have children like that: set a budget. And don't buy the zebra printed paper clips. *smiles*
9. Buy certain things in bulk. There might be certain things you consider buying in bulk to save time and money later on in the school year. Be selective though and really think if you are going to need those bulk items.
10. Consider buying your items at your local grocery store. You might be surprised to find out that your grocery store offers school items cheaper than other stores! And, if your grocery store gives gas savings off of the number of points you spend each month- this could be a double savings!
11. Clip Coupons. I like clip coupons and let me encourage you that this is the best time of year to clip those coupons to help save money. (FYI: If you are buying your supplies at Sam's you can not use your coupons there.)
12. If you live in a state that does "tax free week" shop then. Sixteen states have "tax free weeks". Want to know how to find out if you are one or live close enough to one to cross state boarders? Click HERE. Sorry my sweet Georgia friends, due to the budget deficit there is no tax free week for you this year.
13. Ask for additional discounts. Don't forget to ask for additional discounts. Many times stores offer military, senior, teacher, student, etc. discounts.
14. Look at Home first. Check your home to make sure you don't have the supplies you are going out to buy.
15. Don't forget about "price match". Some stores have "price match" to other stores, including on-line stores. Do your research before you buy!
16. Wait until September. MANY stores will drop prices on back to school items once Labor Day has passed. Buy what is necessary and then consider buying items that you won't need until later on in the school year then.
17. Buy books online. Some high schools now require their students to buy books for Advanced Placement classes. Consider renting or buying them online and you could save money. (You could also help a child in need if you go through Campus Book Rentals. Click HERE if you would like to know more about that program.) And while you are online- don't forget to check out social media! Some companies are now offering exclusive awards through social media only.
18. Check out Thrift Stores and Be Creative. I am ALL about the idea of "altering" an object- notebooks, calendars, etc. Check out your local thrift store and let your children be creative with their items. Want an example of an altered notebook? Click HERE.
What about y'all? How do you and your family save on Back to School Shopping?