Smart Savings for Back-to-School Season

Although the summer sun is still beating down on most of us, that time is almost here. I’m sure all you parents out there know what “time” I’m talking about. Back-to-school is just around the corner. Time to send those kids, big and small, back to their classrooms equipped with everything they need to be productive and successful in the coming year.

Between clothing shopping and supply shopping, back to school spending can easily get out of hand. And so I’ve compiled for you some ways that you can hope to save some money on your back to school shopping endeavors (or at least avoid spending a small fortune).

Supplies

  • Shop at Home First: make sure to take inventory of what your children have in their drawers and book bags from last year. Your child may have only used a small portion of some of their notebooks, so you can easily rip out the used pages and continue using the notebook until the pages are full.
  • Tax Free Holidays: many states have upcoming tax free weekends. Check out this extensive list to see if your state is participating and consider buying your supplies (especially bigger purchases) on these days. Just be prepared to brave the crowds!
  • Personalize: buy plain items and make a fun day out of upgrading. Let the kids go to town with their art supplies to personalize their notebooks, backpacks, etc. You don’t have to buy the fancy stuff in order for your kids to have “cool” things. Creativity goes a long way.
  • Follow the List: be sure to take your children’s back to school lists everywhere you shop as a guide. You can mark off what you’ve already got on this original list. You don’t want to end up buying unnecessary purchases because you’ve forgotten what your child actually needs.
  • Basics in Bulk: chances are that your children will need more than 5 pencils and pens for the year (or for the first month even). If there are bulk sales on supplies that don’t have an expiration date, take advantage of them!
  • Buy Bright: this advice comes from Parenting.com –

    Lost school supplies may be a given, but gear that’s hard to miss can stave off the inevitable. Pack all their pencils, erasers, and other goodies into a bright backpack or pencil pouch to keep them from disappearing.

Clothes

  • Wardrobe Inventory: much like you should do with supplies, you should also raid your children’s closets. You may find that there are plenty of clothes that still fit and are suitable for the coming year. Take inventory of these items and cross them off of your “to buy” list.
  • Sell Last Year’s Clothes: take clothing that’s still in good condition to used clothing stores or consignment stores.
  • Refashion What You Can: if your kids are sick of old clothing that still fits, find creative ways to refashion them. Jeans and shirts and be bedazzled with patches, paint and sequins. You can update T-shirts by tying, cutting, and tweaking. You can shorten or lengthen skirts or turn jeans or pants into skirts. Explore the free possibilities here before you shop.
  • Host a Clothing Swap: invite your kids’ friends and families to attend a swap where kids can exchange gently used clothing for free. The clothing will be new to the person who receives it.

    Check out this video that shows how teens swapped their unwanted, gently used clothing for amazing finds at the consignment store without costing their parents a penny.

    Bonus: you could also host a supply swap. One kid may have a ton of folders and another has a ton of markers, etc.

  • Shop Late: a month or two after school starts, all “back to school” clothing goes on sale. If you can wait until then to update your child’s wardrobe, you’ll definitely save some cash.
  • Shop Year Round: don’t feel like you have to get everything at once. Wait for sales, especially for clothing that’s not in season. You’ll most likely find great deals on spring clothing during the dead of winter.
  • Buy Versatile Items: make sure to get items that will work with multiple outfits. By multiplying the amount of potential outfits you can create from the fewest amount of clothing, you’ll be sure to save some cash.

General Advice

  • Invest in Quality Items: better to have something last your child throughout the year (and for years to come) than to get something cheap that will break. When calculating how expensive an item is, think about how much use that item will get compared to its cost. For example, you may buy a $7 cheapo backpack that breaks with a few months of use. You’ll keep spending money throughout the year fixing or replacing this poorly-made backpack. Or, you could buy a $25 or $30 well-made backpack that will last your child for years. While the second option seems more costly at the time of purchase, it may be cheaper in the long run.
  • Consider Shopping with a Frugal Group: sort of self explanatory – buy sale items in bulk so that the group of kids can split the items up.
  • Have Kid’s Pitch In: this tip may not work for everyone, but if you have your kids pitch in for their clothes and supplies, you should find that they’ll miraculously need less.
  • Looking for Some Great Deals?: check out this Dough Roller article for some amazing deals, promo codes and coupon codes for electronics, school supplies, clothing, textbooks and more.

What are some of your best tips for saving money on back-to-school shopping? We’d love to hear them! Thanks for being a Tip Hero!

A big thank you goes out to the following sources!

Frugal Living @ About.com, Coupon Cravings, USA Today, Frugal Dad

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

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