How To Save Money on Back To School Shopping

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In just four short weeks, the kiddos will be going back to school.

As summer comes to an end, I’m forced to look over my kiddos back to school supply list.

My heart starts beating a little faster at the number of items I needed to buy.

And that isn’t surprising since the average American family will spend $600 on back-to-school shopping. And while it seems like every store has awesome sales and bargains, it is easy go over budget if you don’t plan accordingly.

So here are my best saving tips to help you stay in budget and not break the bank.

How To Save Money on Back To School Shopping

Tip #1: Recycle

I was shocked to find many of the items on my kid’s school supply list were already in the house. Especially things like scissors, pencil boxes, sharpeners, Kleenex, Ziplocs, etc. Also, I try to make backpacks and lunchboxes go for at least two or three years before replacing. Remember, there is no shame in sending a 3/4 full bottle of Elmer’s Glue.

Tip #2: Shop Tax Free

Missouri’s Tax Free Weekend is August 3 -5, 2012 and applies to the following items:

  • Clothing under $100
  • School supplies under $50
  • Computer software under $350
  • Computers/computer equipment under $3,500

As a general rule, I only shop for items during the tax free weekend that are bargains or a big ticket item. I never pay full-price because I’m getting an eight-percent tax break.

Tip #3: Price Match

Walmart, Staples, Office Depot and Office Max all price match. I spend a little time on the weekend with the circulars and make a list of the “best bargains”. Then I go to one store with my circulars and list in hand. And it is even easier because I use the Back To School Deals that I publish for the week on Monday.

Tip #4: Don’t Buy New Clothes Yet

First, its hot for the first couple of months of school.

Second, fashion is fickle – especially in the tween set. Wait to spend money on fall/winter clothes until the second month of school. Kids will have a better idea of the “in” styles and prices are lower because stores are moving inventory in anticipation for the holiday season.

Tip #5: Wait…If You Can

Two to three weeks after school starts, many stores will slash their prices on backpacks, lunchboxes, spiral notebooks, folders, etc. If the item isn’t needed during the first week of school, then wait and buy when it goes on clearance.

Tip #6: Embrace The Splurge

Starting a new school year is exciting. New teachers, new classmates, new schedule, and new subjects.

Don’t squelsh the excitement by making every item “recycled” from home. I talk to my kiddos each year about an item they would love to have for school and get it for them. This year both kids want new backpacks. And they will get new back packs, but they won’t get new lunchboxes. It’s a compromise, but it is still special.

Tip #7: Remember There is More Than School Supplies

Remember, there are other expenses besides school supplies and clothes. Make sure to budget in school lunches, book fees, PTA fees, and organization fees in the first month of school.

Tip #8: Make a Final Budget and Stick To It

I find making a budget helps keep me (and my kiddos) spending in check. Using a school supply list and their desired “want” list helps to make a budget for each child. As part of the budgeting process, the kiddos get to make decisions about which items to splurge and which items to save on.

Tip #9: If the Budget is Too Big – Buy In Stages

There are occasions that after putting pen to paper, recycling as many items as possible, and shopping the sales and price matching, there is not enough to cover all the expenses.

When I find myself in this situation, I make a priority list. Some things may have to wait until next month – and that is okay. Have a discussion with the teacher and let them know the situation. Most likely the kiddos don’t need four notebooks at the start of the school, one may be sufficient.

What about you? What are some cost-cutting things you do to save money during back-t0-school? Leave a comment – because someone may have a great idea for you.

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  1. Lisa Williams Steigerwald says

    Thank you so much for your imput! We are new to the area so this helped! It looks like to me from weather trends maybe shorts weather thru October. Is that correct and then we need to worry about jeans and such.

  2. Jessica says

    Its too late for this now, but something to keep in mind next May, and it goes along with the recycling idea. When my kiddos brought home their backpacks on the second to last day, I took them hostage before they could dump everything out. I found an unopened box of 24 ct crayons, 4 unused glue sticks, an unopened bottle of glue, unopened 10 ct of markers, and more. I took them, threw them in a small tote and stuck it in the top of my closet. 2 days ago when our lists were published from the school, I took down the tote and crossed things off. Half my list is done because the school asks for more than is needed.

    Also, I don’t let the school dictate exactly what is bought. Why do I need to spend $3-$4 on 8 ct Crayola markers when the 10 ct go on sale for less than $1. And same for those schools that “require” Ticondaroga (sp?) pencils, ridiculous.

  3. Corina says

    Because I bought a lot of supplies for for practically pennies, I squirreled it away from last year. Target had folders and comp books for 5 cents and 30 cents a couple weeks after school started. Plus stacking Q’s to get close to free or free MEAD notebooks, packs of pens last year from Target. Or packs of dry erase makers and pencils from Walgreen’s. I just got our local school list and other than getting three more glue sticks, my son’s school supply list is complete and I had it all in my basement.=-).

  4. Jennifer says

    As a full-time college student, I stock up on school supplies as much as possible and as cheap as possible. Last year, I bought so many spiral notebooks, binders, pencils and pens that I was able to help out my niece who is in high school with her supplies.. I agree with recycling and reusing backpacks. I have the same backpack from high school (almost 10 years ago).

  5. FrugalEngineer says

    DD’s school sent the list home with the end of the year paperwork. I’ve looked it over and I know I have it all in the basement b/c each year I get all the loss leaders during the sales in July-Aug, then I get a healthy stock when it’s clearanced. It’s in the basement with the rest of my stockpile. During the year when DD comes home and says she’s out of pencils, I get 3 packs from the basement (probably spent 3 cents) and I send them to school: one for her, two for the teacher, who I know hands out pencils to the kids who ran out and didn’t plan ahead. Just like the rest of your stockpile, you can share from it to those who have a need and you don’t have to break your budget.

    I have to admit, though, the only reason I’m completely done this year already is b/c I looked ahead last year. The school has all grades on one page (yes, the print is tiny) so I looked at 2nd grade last year when we were in 1st. Sure it can change year over year, but not much. I got the 7″ scissors when Staples had them FAR last year, so I know I’m good this year.

    And Amen on not following the list precisely. I think in kindergarten she was supposed to have the 12ct crayons. Whatever. The 24ct ones are the ones that go on sale for a nickel or less. She took the 24s.

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