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Going back to school is an exciting time of year for both kids and parents. It's a time for making new friends, learning new things, and unfortunately for parents, spending money on school supplies and clothes.
Buying new school supplies, clothing, and footwear is expensive, and many parents end up spending more than they bargained for.
We want the best for our kids, but that doesn't mean we should go broke buying brand new supplies and the latest fashions in name brand clothing.
Making do with what you have and buying second hand are great ways to save. Doing your homework on sales, coupons, and online deals save time and money. Read on for some great tips on how to make a little go a long way on back to school shopping.
The first rule of how to save on school supplies is to start your shopping at home. Before you head out to the stores, look through your house to see what supplies you already have on hand. A simple search through your drawers and storage bins could yield a variety of treasures, like pencils, pens, and art supplies.
As you gather your supplies, keep them in a large container or on a table so you can see exactly what you have. Then, write these things down on a piece of paper so you can take it with you when you go shopping. If you want to get super organized, group the supplies into like items and take pictures with your phone for a visual shopping list.
You can do the same thing with clothes by going through your kid’s closets and drawers. Set aside any clothes that your kids have outgrown and decide which one to toss and which ones to donate. Finish by making a list or taking pictures of what you already have. This once-a-year sweep will help you save money by preventing you from buying things you already have on hand.
Once you’ve completed your sweep, you may find that you have entirely too much of one supply and not nearly enough of anything else. A supply swap is a fun, easy way to address this problem.
To plan a supply swapping event, make a list of family and friends with school-age children. Then, invite them to bring any supplies and clothes they have in interest in trading. Along with scoring free supplies, this is a great chance for parents to exchange back to school shopping tips.
Considering how quickly kids outgrow their clothes, back to school clothes shopping is easily the biggest money burner for most families. Fortunately, many thrift stores and consignment shops have very affordable, high-quality clothes that can save you a ton of money.
The key is knowing when to shop at these stores. Many of these places have back to school sales during the late summer and sometimes pool their resources with other stores to provide customers with as many choices as possible. That means your kid can still look cool and stylish without burning through all your back to school money.
Shopping on a budget, by the way, doesn’t mean you can’t go to the malls and department stores. Just wait till after September, which is when most retailers drop their prices on kids’ clothing.
Knowing when to buy school supplies is just as important as where you buy them. A quick Google search can help you find out which days your favourite stores mark down items, like school supplies and kids’ clothing.
If you’re active on social media, follow Twitter and Facebook accounts for your favourite stores. Most stores send their followers coupon links and promotion notices for back to school supplies before announcing them to the general public.
There are many reasons to shop online. You can often find great bargains from online retailers, especially if you’re willing to buy in bulk. It’s a practical option for pencils, tissues, glue sticks, and other supplies you can never have enough of.
Additionally, check for online order promotions before you go to the store. Many stores, for example, offer discounts to customers who place orders online then pick up their items at the store. In addition to a discount, shopping this way helps you and your kids avoid the aggravation of crowded aisles and long lines.
Brand names are hard for kids to resist, especially when they feature adorable animals or their favourite cartoon characters. But generic school supplies are typically half the price of their brand name counterparts, especially for staples like notebooks and folders.
If you’re agonizing over how to save on school supplies without a full-blown tantrum from your child, try buying things like stickers, glitter, and puffy paint from the dollar store. That way, your kids can decorate their supplies with their favourite designs.
Price comparison used to be a time-consuming affair that involved going from store to store. Today, it’s as easy as downloading a comparison app and a barcode scanner.
With most of these apps, you simply scan the barcode of the item you’re interested in and let the app find out if there’s a lower price at another store or website. Some of these apps even allow you to create a budget and keep track of your transactions to prevent you from overspending. Others combine multiple money-saving features, like promo codes and in-store coupons, to help you save as much money as possible.
The lesson we hope you learned here is that you don't have to spend a lot of money on school supplies for your kids if you shop smart and compare prices. Even so, it's a good thing back to school shopping only comes once a year.
Read our blog for more great financial advice and money-saving tips.