Ten Ways To Save On Back To School

It’s here. 

The weather still thinks it’s summer outside, but in the eyes of many school districts, school is just days away from a new calendar year. Even if your area isn’t there yet, you’ve got only a few weeks left — maybe a month, if you’re lucky.

Somehow you must come up with creative ways to get clothes, school supplies and more, without breaking the budget. Here’s a start, before your kids trudge off:

*Clean out their closets. Not only will it give them a clean place to start the year from, but you can donate their gently-worn items to help other kids get a new start. That way, everybody wins.

*What do they really need? If it’s jeans, you shouldn’t be at the shoe store, buying sandals. Know what clothes they’ve got, so you don’t buy extras or duplicates. (Five-ten days’ worth is a good starting point. Add more as needed, or so you don’t have to wash as often.)

     Sometimes it’s best to wait until school actually starts, to double-check what’s really essential. This can especially be true for the college-bound. Case in point: a dorm room you’ll be sharing. It’s far too easy to spend money on duplicate items that roommate’s parents have also purchased. Buy the essentials– and wait for the rest.

*Hand-me-downs. Invariably, my school year started with a huge box of dresses and other items from my older cousin, who had a great sense of style. (Meanwhile, she was getting items from her older cousin. I didn’t mind — those items would eventually come to me!) What could you ‘borrow’ from your kids’ older cousins, siblings or personal friends?

*Office supply and discount store sales. Office Max, Target, Wal-Mart and others have incredible prices on pens, pencils, glue sticks, and a boatload of paper and notebooks right now. Check for sales (they generally change on Sundays), visit your coupon drawerand get ready to save anywhere from 30-70% on supplies. (Get some extras and put them away for Christmas stockings, too.) Warning: stores are counting on you to buy extra non-sale items to make up the cost. Unless it’s essential, grab the sale stuff, pay for it, and you’re out of there. You can always come back later.

*Ready to shop? Make a map. Don’t drive until you know which stores you want to visit. Often you can drive from one to the next, saving gas and time.

*Buy multiples whenever possible. It isn’t just underwear and socks that’s cheaper by the pack. Are your kids’ favorite snacks on sale? Buy a case, if it’s something that will keep and/or store easily. Punch cards for school lunches, bus rides, etc. are cheaper, generally, when a week or a month’s worth is purchased.

*Think layers. Thin shirts, t-shirts and light skirts now — when the weather gets colder, you can add leggings, sweaters and hoodies. Layers let you automatically adapt to the temperature, no matter how warm or cool it gets.

*Look for “free with” or BOGO (buy one, get one free) items. At the very least, you should be getting cash-back or reward points with a credit card on your purchases. Go here for the most up-to-date info on cash-back credit cards.

*Let your kids help pay. Give them extra tasks for chores, or encourage them to find part-time work for extra cash. You can also:

*Let them decide how to spend the money you give them. Figure out your budget. Emphasize what purchases are critical — then let them decide how they want to use it. Remind them that if they buy a t-shirt or two, then blow the rest on a new skateboard, you are not going to buy extra socks or underwear to rescue them. They will have to make do until the next semester.

      This is a great way to teach your kids independence. And that, if you think about it, is the ultimate goal.


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