Back-to-school time is always met with mixed reactions. Kids are excited about the status of moving up a grade and spending time with friends; parents, however, tend to feel some stress when they see the constantly expanding supply list.
To save money on supplies for your elementary school student this summer, try the following 15 tips.
1. Lists and Budgets
It’s well established that shoppers who make a list buy fewer unnecessary items. Before you hit the store, review your kids’ supply lists and figure out what you’ll need. Instead of having an open-ended budget, pick an amount you’re willing to spend and stick to it. This forces you to shop by price, not product.
2. Leave the Kids at Home
Instead of packing the kids into the car for a dreaded shopping trip, go ahead and leave them at home. This eliminates debates about which school supplies to buy, allowing you to shop based on needs, not wants.
If it’s important to bring them with you, curb their desires by giving them a small budget to use on any supplies they want. This way, they’ll be distracted picking out special items while you pick up the rest.
3. What’s in the Closet?
It’s surprising how much stuff accumulates in a house. See what you already have on hand before buying brand-new supplies. Supplies like notebooks, highlighters and pencils tend to pile up and can be used by students of any age. Even if you don’t find much, you can clear up some clutter by ridding drawers of dried-out markers and broken, mismatched crayons.
4. Use Coupons
With all of the coupons available these days, you shouldn’t end up paying full price for much. There’s a wide variety of online and printable coupons to choose from, including coupons for major merchants like Kohl’s and Walmart, at sites like CouponSherpa.com. There’s even a mobile coupon app availble to help find discounts while you’re on the go. When you find a coupon you like, the cashier can scan it right from your phone or input the UPS code.
5. Kids Pay, Too
Teaching kids smart shopping strategies can never start too early. If they absolutely have to have the coolest new sneakers, get them to chip-in on the cost. Agree to pay a certain amount and have them save the rest from their allowance. It can be surprising how quickly kids decide they don’t need tons of stuff after all.
6. Use Local Libraries
If your student has some supplemental reading to do, check the books out instead of buying them. If you’ve cut high-speed Internet service at home, most libraries have free, easy access. The library also offers less distractions, so your kids can stay on task.
7. Daily Deals for Kids
Sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial have made headlines for their daily deals, but there are several other sites with deals specifically for children. KidsSteals offers toys, kids clothing and gifts for up to 80-percent off. At Mama Bargains, they don’t limit the deal to one, instead providing several each day. Finally, Baby Half Off posts new deals at 10 a.m. EST and offers products for both parents and kids.
8. Swapping Supplies
You’re not the only one feeling the strain of back-to-school costs. Swap supplies with friends and neighbors who have kids around the same age. You don’t have to just trade school supplies, either. Try exchanging books, toys, games and clothes to help everyone avoid the high cost of buying new.
9. Garage Sales and Thrift Stores
You’re not going to find everything you need for back-to-school shopping at garage sales and thrift stores, but they can certainly help cut costs. With the garage sale season soon coming to a close, lots of people are looking to unload as much as possible while they still can. Some thrift stores even allow shoppers to fill a whole bag with clothing for a flat rate.
10. Cut Clothing Costs
Popular stores like Gap, The Children’s Place, and Old Navy typically have sale cycles planned out in advance. Ask the manager when the new sales start and then target your shopping for those days. This way, you don’t have to run all over town and you can make a plan for what you’re going to buy.
11. Smart Clothes Shopping
While the clothes you select may not meet your kids’ cool standards, rest assured they’ll understand someday when they’re paying the bills. For now, pick clothes that leave a little room to grow. If you find an especially good sale on something like shoes, pick up an extra pair a size or two larger. Clothes without wild patterns or wacky designs are best because they stay in style and can be passed down to younger siblings.
12. Hold off on Electronics
Expensive electronics are finding their way into classrooms more frequently. When possible, hold off on buying electronics until big holiday shopping events, like Free Shipping Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. If you must buy now, purchase second-hand or refurbished products. If buying new is your only option, check out the Coupon Sherpa savings guides for stores like Best Buy and Target. You’ll find helpful advice that can guide you to the lowest price.
13. Rewards Points
If you have no idea what to do with your credit card rewards points, consider using them for back-to-school purchases. Sometimes, points can be converted to gift cards so it feels a little like free money. While using rewards this way isn’t as glamorous as a weekend in Cancun, it makes smart shopping sense.
14. Buy in Advance
It’s never too early to start getting ready for the next school year. Once the mad rush on school supplies has died down, merchants will look to unload extra inventory before the next major shopping event. Keep in mind prices really drop after Labor Day. You can cut costs and avoid the crowds by establishing a pattern of shopping for reduced-price supplies a year in advance.
15. Social Media Savings
Just a few clicks can give you access to exclusive coupons and sales from your favorite stores. More merchants are now rewarding customers with discounts for following them on Facebook and Twitter.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. and as a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured on NBC Today, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.To view recent interviews or for more savings tips visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.