Back-to-school shopping can be a costly endeavor for many parents, but fortunately there are a number of ways to save on many essential items, regardless of whether your child is heading off to a college campus or the first day of kindergarten.
Start at Home
Before you hit the door—or even log onto a computer to shop online—take inventory of any unused school items you have laying around your house. You may be surprised at how many unused notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, rulers, or packs of index cards you’ll find. Keep a list of all usable items so you’ll already have a good idea of what you don’t need to purchase. Apply this principle to clothes shopping as well.
Before you make a single purchase anywhere, go through your child’s closets and determine what no longer fits or is wearable versus items that can be worn for another year. Doing this will help you figure out what you truly need to buy when it comes to both clothing and school supplies.
Online Public School
Enrolling your child in an online public school may perhaps be an option that you’ve never considered, but if feasible for your family, is actually a cost-effective way to save on school materials. For instance, online schools in Iowa know that online education means there’s no pressure to purchase new clothes every fall. Nor will you need school supplies such as a backpack, lunchbox, or even as many notebooks since much of the classwork is done online.
Whether your child attends school online or in a traditional classroom, it’s a good idea to set shopping limits before you start, for yourself and your child. If you have a certain amount of money put aside in the budget for school supplies, plan to spend that amount only and stick to it. If you’re someone who tends to overspend by using credit cards, keep aside a certain amount of cash—or money on a debit card—and use that to shop. And though he or she might be begging you otherwise, let your child know that you will not be picking up the latest designer clothing or that pricey Star Wars backpack/lunchbox set if the budget doesn’t call for it.
Places to Shop
Retail stores are by far not the only places to purchase school supplies. As you scout around for inexpensive supplies, a good place to start looking are the local dollar stores for basic items such as notebooks, pens, and folders. Though you may need to do a little digging, garage and yard sales can also be great places to find used but gently worn clothing. And don’t forget about thrift stores, many of which run back-to-school sales like all the retail stores do.
More Ways to Save
There are a myriad of ways to save by shopping online. Many sites like eBates offer great cash back offers on products purchased through affiliate retailers such Wal-Mart, Dell, or Barnes & Noble. Other retailers will use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to offer their followers substantial discounts on school supplies. If you’re not an online shopper, another way to save is to hunt for good store coupons. Some stores offer price matching on a competitor’s coupon, so this method of bargain hunting can also pay off if you’re willing to do a little leg work. Saving and using coupons throughout the year can also help you build a nice stockpile of supplies, so you won’t find yourself scrambling for everything once summer ends.
Finally, if the cost of school supplies is simply not within the household budget for whatever reason, there are most likely organizations, social service agencies, or churches in your area that run annual back-to-school drives to help provide parents with low-cost or free supplies. But whatever your situation, the good news is that, with a little planning, there are great ways to save on school supplies each year.