Try these 14 ways to save on back-to-school shopping.
Every year it seems like the summer break from school goes by faster and faster. This year is no exception. It feels like just yesterday my kids were waving goodbye to their teachers for what would be the last time in their classes, and now I’m marking the calendar for Meet the Teacher night.
One thing that doesn’t change from year to year is that it’s almost inevitable that nothing from last year is going to fit. I just can’t understand how my kids can grow so much in just two-and-a-half months. Even worse, my kids have to wear uniforms to school. Ugh. I loathe uniforms. I wouldn’t have to buy nearly as many clothes if it weren’t for that restriction.
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Because I have to buy new clothes along with all the supplies needed for the start of the new year and add in that I have two kids in school, we spend more on back-to-school shopping than almost any other time of the year. To say that I’ve looked for every option of saving money possible is an understatement. I’m like a piranha searching for a nice juicy deal. Okay, that sounds a bit ridiculous even to me, but the analogy isn’t that far off. If you’re like me, you want to get the best possible deal out there.
Here are some of the most helpful tips I know of to save on back-to-school shopping.
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Take Time to Plan
Knowing what you actually need and what you already have, will keep you from spending unneeded money. Check your kid’s closets and go through the desk or cabinet where you keep your spare supplies. Then pull out the school supplies list for each child and make one list with everything you need. You’re less likely to forget anything by combining the lists if you have multiple children.
Set a Limit
If your kids are old enough, take a moment and let them know how much you’re willing to spend on all their stuff. Then, as you shop, keep a tally of how much of their budget they have left. This will have the added benefit of teaching your children the value of a dollar so that when they start asking for $100 shoes, they know that they’ll be getting a $20 backpack and brown bag lunches to stay on budget.
If you don’t get the Sunday paper, it might be worth it to buy one before you do your back-to-school shopping. Or, you could search online at places like Coupons.com and Groupon for valuable coupons for shoes, clothes, backpacks, and supplies.
Especially if you’re doing any shopping online, getting cash back on what you buy is crucial. Ebates is a great one to get rebates on all of your online shopping. Ibotta is another one I use mostly for grocery shopping, but they have tons of retail stores that they offer cash back though, so they’re worth taking a look at.
Take Advantage of Your State’s Tax-Free Holiday
Depending on your state, the tax-free weekend could be in late July or August, and it usually lasts Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can google when your state’s tax-free days are or check the website or social media of a local news station. They always list the dates and what is exempt when the time gets closer. If you buy the bulk of your school necessities during this time, you could be saving quite a bit without paying tax. Also, this is a good opportunity to buy any office supplies you might need. Most states offer computers and tablets without tax as well.
Focus on the Most Expensive Items
A look at your list will most likely show you that your children’s clothes are going to cost the most. Look for coupons and rebates on those items and try to find the store that will have the best price with the use of a coupon.
Try to buy everything that you can there and don’t worry about the cost of crayons and pencils because most stores will have those items on sale. Getting your big-ticket items at the best deals will save you time and money. Also, not spending half the day bouncing from store to store will save you gas.
Pick Up Your Supplies at the Grocery Store
You have to do your weekly shopping for groceries anyway. Every store that sales school supplies offers them on sale before the start of school. Picking them up while you’re already there will save you an extra trip and gas money.
Sign Up with Your Favorite Stores
I have only a couple of stores where I regularly buy my kid’s clothes. Now, I’m not saying that I won’t buy clothes from another store if I find something cute for a good price, but there are three stores that I usually shop for my kids at. I’ve signed up for their email list on all three.
With so many sales going on right before school starts, having these emails will help you pick the best deals. Also, most stores use social media to offer coupons and advertise deals following or liking their social media account will put you in the know. Combine any coupons they offer with their school deals, and you could be saving bank.
Get a Credit Card with the Store You Shop at Most
I’m not saying that you should charge everything for back to school, but most stores offer their cardholders special discounts at certain times of the year. Before school is one of those times. For example, Children’s Place just sent me an email offering 25% to 30% off (depending on how much I spend) my entire purchase when using my credit card. That can really add up when buying school clothes.
Most store cards like these have high interest rates. Be sure to pay off the full amount on your credit card before your payment is due to avoid paying interest. Also, make sure you’re not going over your budget. It’s easy to keep swiping but being diligent about your budget will help keep you on track.
Buy Gift Cards at a Discount
Now that you know where and when you’re going to shop, look for discounted gift cards for those stores at sites like giftcards.com or plasticjungle.com. You can save as much as 25% by purchasing a gift card first and then using it to make your purchases.
Hit Up the Dollar Store
While the larger stores like Walmart and Target will have better deals on folders and 1-subject notebooks, Dollar Tree has a large selection of composition notebooks, pencil pouches, and binders. Stopping off on your way to the larger department store could save you some money and give you a better selection.
If you’re really looking to save, try consignment stores. Their clothes tend to be in better condition than thrift stores because they only accept unblemished clothing from their consignments. If you have a local consignment store that you shop regularly, see if they have an email list you can sign up for.
Wait Until After School Starts
Another option is to buy just what you need to start the school and then wait until after the school year has begun and shop end-of-summer sales. You can get short-sleeved shirts and shorts on great deals during this time. Another good time to buy is in January during the end-of-winter sales. You can get long pants for great Shopping these out of season sales ensures that you always have clothes available and you’re not tempted to rush out and pay full-price because you need the items right then.
Buy Enough Supplies to Last All Year
When the notebooks and pens go on sale, I buy multiple packs on top of what my kids are going to need. You never find me too far from a notebook during the year, and so I buy them when I can get them the cheapest. That goes for any office supplies you will use. If you’re going to buy them anyway, you might as well get them on sale.
I hope these tips get you the most bang for your buck this back-to-school season. For most tips on saving money on kids clothes check out my post 6 Ways to Buy Kid’s Clothes on the Cheap.