Back-to-school shopping is an inevitable part of life for people with kids. Between school supplies, backpacks, new clothes and other necessities, the costs can really add up, especially if you have more than one child. These tips will help you save money where you can so your kids can have a great back-to-school experience without breaking the bank.

1. Shop Consignment Sales

Where I live, there are several great consignment sales throughout the year that offer gently used clothing for kids of all ages at greatly reduced prices. This works best for younger kids who aren’t brand-loyal, but with some hunting you can even find things that older kids will be happy with (you may need to play up that buying used is eco-friendly, or head to a vintage shop to make buying used more fun for older kids).

Consignment shops and thrift stores can also be a great source of clothing. Like your favorites on Facebook and they’ll let you know when the super-bargain days are. One shop here has days where everything is half off, which means you can score some really excellent deals.

2. Get it Tax Free

Many states have tax-free weekends where you can buy clothing and school supplies without having to pay sales tax. Yes, you’ll have to fight everyone else who’s shopping on those precious days, but if you’re the sort of person who likes the Black Friday spirit, you can score some good deals.

Some stores have special sales on tax-free weekends, making it even more worth your while to head out.

3. Comparison Shop

Everyone from superstores to the grocery store to the dollar store seems to sell school supplies at back-to-school time, and they often have a couple of items that are really cheap. If you have time to go to several stores, you can score the best deals at each one—nabbing the 10 cent crayons at one place and the two for a dollar notebooks elsewhere.

If that’s not an option for you, investigate if any of the stores do price matching, where you can bring in an ad from another store and get their low price where you are shopping. That can save you a lot of time and effort (not to mention gas money).

4. Sign up for Emails or Like Shops on Facebook

If you’re looking for clothing deals, sign up for emails and like you favorite shops on Facebook. Then you’ll know when the things you need are on sale and when new clearance items are added. It may be worth it to wait a couple of weeks into the school year to buy some items if they’re likely to be on sale in the new future.

5. Stock up at Clearance Sales

Speaking of sales, the end-of-summer sales and clearance racks that are regular fixtures at some stores can be your best friends. Summer stuff goes on sale long before the winter stuff is needed, so you can buy some new things that can be used right away. Or shop when the clothing is a little off-season if you can predict what size your child might be the next time that season rolls around. I’ve bought clothing marked down to a couple of dollars or less because it was deep in the wrong season.

6. Don’t Buy Too Much

It’s really tempting, especially when you’re getting a good deal, to buy a ton of new stuff, but if your kid isn’t likely to go through more than two boxes of crayons in a year, it’s a waste of money to buy more. What’s more, you’ll have to find a place to store it in the meantime, remember where you put it when it is needed and so on. It’s not really worth it to go off-list or buy duplicates of things that aren’t likely to be used in the near future.

7. Use What You Have

If you are the sort of person who tends to buy too much, make sure you check the house for items your child could use before you shop. I buy a ton of notebooks every year, and there are usually some left over, for instance. You may also find that some of last year’s clothing, like jeans and sweaters, may still be useable if your child hasn’t grown too much. Shop at home first.

8. Personalize What You Can

If some of those old clothes fit fine but aren’t looking great, think about how you might alter them to make them better than new. You can add patches to cover holes or stains, add embroidery, dye shirts, or if you have some sewing skills, even turn a dress into a skirt or take in the sides of a boxy shirt to make it more form-fitting.

Likewise with the school supplies: washi tape is cheap and makes everything cuter.

Need more tips for back to school? Check out these 12 Ways to Get “Back to School” Right

Featured photo credit: happy school girls running outdoor at sunny autumn day via Shutterstock

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