According to the National Retail Federation, the average American family spent over $600 last year for back-to-school supplies and clothing. While it is important to make sure Junior and Sis show up to school with everything they need, there is no need to take such a large bite out of your budget to do so. So before you head off to the store, here are some ways to make sure you don’t spend too much on back to school shopping this season.
1. Take inventory. If you are one of those organized parents who corrals all the school supplies every June, this should be fairly easy. Even if you are not, it’s worth taking an afternoon (and making the kids help) to track down and gather all of last year’s supplies in one place. Once you’ve gathered everything together, you’ll know just what you need to buy and what you can reuse. It will also teach your kids an important lesson about not wasting materials. Why buy new scissors and binders and rulers year after year when last year’s supplies are still serviceable?
Similarly, before you hike out to the department store for new clothes, look through your kids’ closets and see what they can still wear. You can even get the kids in on the inventory by having them put on a fashion show of last year’s clothes so you can see what still fits. It will be much easier to know what basics you need to buy if you know what you already have.
2. Trade clothes with other families. Have a get together with several other families and bring clothes that your kids have out-grown. Each family can sort through the clothing for hand me downs that will work for their munchkins, and anything left over can be donated.
3. Make a list and stick to it. Once you know what you need, pore through the circulars of local retailers as well as coupon sites like www.couponsherpa.com to find the best deals on supplies and clothes. By doing your “shopping” before you set foot in a store, you will avoid the temptation to buy budget-busting items just because they’re cute.
4. Use gift cards. You can find discounted gift cards at websites like www.giftcards.com, where people who do not want gift cards will sell them for less than the price of the card. If you know where you want to shop, this is a great way to buy yourself some free money for back-to-school shopping.
5. Buy in bulk. We all know that there is a black hole in every house where crayons, pens, pencils and markers disappear. So it makes sense to buy items like these in bulk, so that when all seem to be missing, you can go shopping in your storage closet for more. Most office supply stores offer bulk discounts for these types of items, and you can go in on these purchases with other families for even bigger deals. Just keep in mind that sometimes, buying in bulk can be more expensive.
6. Take advantage of tax holidays. Some states offer tax holidays for certain back to school items, most commonly things such as clothing and footwear under $100, school supplies, and computers. The participation of states varies, as do the eligible tax-exempt items. But if your state participates, you amy be able to plan your back-to-school shopping accordingly and save some money. Here is a list of participating states.
You don’t have to spend a bundle to send your kids back to school in style. It just takes a little patience and planning, and you can enjoy an inexpensive return to the school year.
Photo credit: EvelynGiggles