It’s time to go back to school for a lot of kids and adults. That means it’s time to go get the pencils and pens, backpacks and shoes, and re-evaluate the old wardrobe. It can be an expensive time of year for parents and college students alike so here are some ways to do back to school shopping the smart way.
1. Wait for the end of the summer sales
Sales are a beautiful thing and the end of the summer usually gives you a lot of options of stuff to buy. Usually this is more for things like shoes, backpacks, and cloths. Many stores will have specific back to school shopping sales for school supplies too. You may have to wait into the first few weeks into the school year to find the sales, but they are there and patience is a virtue.
2. Anticipate by buying early
Your kids may need a new winter jacket or some new jeans. The best time to buy that stuff is during the opposite season that you’ll actually need it. A lot of stores will deeply discount these items during the spring or summer because people don’t normally buy winter jackets in the spring or summer. Buy them early enough and you can save yourself a pretty penny heading into fall. You can also get sales on school supplies like this sometimes if you keep an eye out.
3. Shop during your state’s tax free weekend
There are 17 states that allow you to shop for school supplies tax free for a weekend to help you save money for the upcoming school year. You wouldn’t think that it’s a lot but if you’re shopping for two or three kids or you’re buying some new computer equipment, those costs (and therefore those taxes) can add up quickly. For a full list of states that do this every year, check this link. Sadly, many states have already had theirs but yours could still be upcoming and this is still valuable information for next year.
4. Don’t buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is a double edged sword. On one hand, you get a lot of stuff and the price per item is typically less than if you bought that item separately. On the other hand, you have to spend extra money to get things in bulk. In some cases it makes sense. Getting a $10 box of 50 pens is a great idea. Spending $20 on ten 3-ring binders or $30 on 15 spiral notebooks is a horrible idea. Unless you have six kids, you can usually save money on buying individually for most items.
5. Donate or sell items you intend on discarding
When you upgrade your (or your kids’) wardrobe, that means there are cloths that need to go. Instead of tossing them, you can sell them in a garage sale or at a second-hand store. This can earn you a few bucks to offset the money you just spent on newer cloths. Of course, if you’re well off, you could always donate them to charity too. Just a though.
6. Find the free (or cheap) software for your computer
With school comes the need for some software. You (or your kids) will be writing essays, doing presentations, research projects, and all sorts of other stuff. Much like cloths, software goes on sale fairly frequently. There are also people who simply don’t need that much. You don’t need to spend $200 on Microsoft Office if your kid only needs to write the occasional school paper. Something like Google Drive (free) will work just as well. Many software vendors will have huge sales or even give away expensive software for free to college students. Just ask your college advisors or check sites like DreamSpark. Also, make sure you double check with schools before buying any software. You don’t want to fork out money for something you don’t need.
7. Don’t spend too much on cloths
Fashion is a fickle thing and shopping for all of the school cloths over the summer is usually a bad move. When the school year stars, new trends will happen and you (or your kids) may need a small update here and there to stay en vogue. If you spend less on cloths during the summer, you’ll have more on your budget to augment your style over the course of the fall and winter so you stay in style. Of course, that only applies if the current trends matter to you. Otherwise, some jeans, a t-shirt, and a jacket are still a solid way to go.
8. Shop online
Brick and mortar stores aren’t the only places that have back to school sales. Amazon, eBay, Newegg, and other online retailers often have similar sales for going back to school. You can find a surprising assortment of useful school items for relatively cheap online. Especially at places like Newegg where you can get a decent laptop for hundreds of dollars off if you don’t mind refurbished machines.
9. Don’t give in to peer pressure
According to a poll, the majority of parents feel peer pressure to buy things their kids don’t need because other parents bought their kids things. Don’t subject yourself to that nonsense. You and your kids’ school know what they need. If you have the budget after buying the essentials, then maybe spend a couple of bucks to buy your kid the cooler stuff that they probably don’t need but don’t feel like you have to do it. A pen is a pen, a 3-ring binder is a 3-ring binder. Dropping an extra $15 on it because it has Groot on it is absurd.
A much more cost effective (and fun) idea is to get things that are solid colored and then print out pictures and images of popular characters. Allowing your kids to customize their own stuff allows them to create what they want instead of buying something for two or three times the cost. It can save money and sometimes it looks even better than the store bought stuff.
10. Look for student discounts
We’ve mentioned it a little bit in earlier parts of this list, but student discounts are everywhere. Software sites like DreamSpark offer deeply discounted (or free) software for students. Many colleges have deals with software sellers to get you things like Microsoft Office for a deep discount (or free). Some brick and mortar stores will give you discounts if you show a student ID. They’re not everywhere but if you can find them, they do add up.
11. Raid the coupon websites
These days the best coupons are online. One of the the more popular coupon sites is RetailMeNot. By raiding the online coupon sites, you can find deals that people normally wouldn’t find in the newspaper coupons or in-store sales. Every dollar counts and coupons are a great way to make that money stretch.
12. Offer your kids a bargain-reward solution
A fun strategy some parents use is allow their kids to bargain shop. If they can get all of their supplies in under a certain budget, you then reward that by letting them get a must-have item (almost) regardless of the cost. That puts the savings in the kids hands and allows them to choose what to cheap out on. You get to spend less and they don’t get mad at you for choosing cheap stuff for them. That’s a win-win.
Back to school shopping is a yearly event. Once you figure out a plan that works for you and your kids, the next year gets easier because you already know what to do. Best of luck!
Featured photo credit: Teaching Happily Ever After via teachinghappilyeverafter.blogspot.com