Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to break the bank. Here’s how you can save money for back-to-school beyond cutting coupons:
- Don’t buy what you already have. Many schools send home lists of the supplies your child will need for the year. Before you go shopping, take inventory of what’s already in the house. Do you already have lined paper, even if it isn’t a new package? Will those pencils from the doctor’s office work for math class? Are those markers still working, or have they dried out? Can that old pencil case be prettied up with some stickers? Is your child desperate for new clothing, or is her wardrobe still in good shape? The best way to save money is to not spend it at all.
- Compare prices online. Before going to the store, hunt around online at the bigger office supply stores, as well as chain drugstores, to compare prices. Or, if you have several kids to buy for, look at a Web site like Amazon for back-to-school supplies. They sell notebooks, pens, and other items below retail price and offer free shipping on many items if you spend $25 or more.
- Set a budget. After you’ve shopped around online, you can work out what your budget will need to be to get the basics. This can be a good way to introduce your child to budgeting. Maybe he wants the folder with the cartoon character on it, or maybe he would rather have the plain folder and a new box of crayons. Either way, sticking to a budget will help keep the impulse buys under control. This will also work when looking for a new outfit for the first day back.
- Wait until after the rush. Of the items you don’t yet have, what does your child really need for the first day of school? While some items will be on sale in time for back-to-school, others will be discounted once the school year has started.
- Shop year-round. The best buys may not be when you’re looking for them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy things now for a later date. Stock up on evergreen supplies such as pens, pencils, and notebooks, regardless of the time of year. Your children will probably need markers and poster board for a project at some point, so why not get them while they’re on sale? Designate a drawer or box for school supplies so you and your kids can find things when you need them.