It’s back-to-school season and, everywhere you look, store shelves are bursting with notebooks, pencils, and the like. It can be easy to go overboard and break the bank while preparing your kids for a new school year, but a little planning can ensure you send them off to class well-stocked while staying under budget. Here are 8 great money-saving tips to start off the school year on the right foot.
1. Plan ahead
Make sure you know what you need before heading to the store, browsing online, or even clipping coupons. These days, many schools provide a list of recommended items students in their grade level will need, including basics such as notebooks, folders and specialty items such as calculators or art supplies.
Knowing what you need beforehand will help streamline your shopping experience and help prevent you from buying items you don’t actually need. It will also help you set a realistic budget. It may even help to use cash to pay for everything. That way you can keep track of how much you’re spending, because you’ll only be spending the amount you’ve withdrawn from your account..
2. Shop at home
There’s a good chance you already have a lot of what you need, whether its paper, folders, pens, or even art supplies. Before you end up with doubles of everything, do a sweep of your house and see what you already have. This will help save you money as well as reduce unnecessary clutter.
If you have younger kids, you can enlist their help by turning this household sweep into a scavenger hunt. Hand them a list of school supplies and encourage them to collect as many items as they can find on it.
3. Collect coupons
After making your list and checking off what you already have, it’s time to collect coupons for the remaining items. Store circulars are a great place to start, but also online databases like Retail Me Not for additional savings. Better yet, you can sign up with stores online and have deals sent directly to you via email.
Don’t forget about student discounts, either. Many stores provide discounts on clothing, technology, services, and more with proof of a student ID or email address.
4. Shop off-peak
Stores know there’s a huge back-to-school boom in August, so they’re more likely to hike up prices or hide discounts during that time. Instead, try to do your shopping early or late if possible. Shopping in July will get you the regular discounts and coupons while shopping in September often helps you score deals on clearance items.
If you want to shop really off-peak, you can look for school supplies in December after college students have gone back to class. You’ll find similar clearance sales that will help you stock up for the following school year.
5. Buy in bulk
Items sold in bulk often have a cheaper price per item than those sold individually or in smaller packs. Even if your kids don’t need a dozen notebooks, their friends can surely find a use for them. Team up with a few other parents to divvy up supplies bought in bulk for a convenient and inexpensive way to check items off of everyone’s lists.
6. Check online
Online shopping is not only convenient, it can also help score extra discounts. Sites such as Amazon and Overstock often sell items for cheaper than office supply stores, while Target and Staples may run online-exclusive sales. An additional trick is to add items to your online cart, but not check out right away. There’s a good chance they’ll go on sale in the upcoming days or you’ll receive an email in your inbox with a discount code.
7. Know when to splurge
Some items, such as pencils and pens, will likely get lost by the second month of school, so it’s not worth spending much money on them. Backpacks and lunchboxes, on the other hand, could potentially be used for several years to come. Spending a bit more for these items by a trusted brand will save you money in the long run, as they won’t be falling apart by December.
8. Pack reusable lunches
Plastic forks and disposable juice boxes may seem convenient, but single-use items like these can really add up over time. Look for reusable items, instead, such as reusable containers, utensils, and water bottles. Many companies make them in a variety of cool colors and patterns that will get kids excited to open up their lunchbox.
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