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Save on Back To School Shopping

Back to school shopping chalkboard with colored pencils in a pencil holder.

That’s right, we’ve arrived at the time of year when parents start coupling their final summer activities with back to school shopping. Believe it or not, in getting just one child ready for school parents will easily spend over $600, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. While spending money on the necessary supplies is inevitable, shopping need not drain your wallet completely. Here are several methods parents can use to save money on their school supply shopping hunt.

Time It Right

Different items rise and fall in price at different times of the year. Your shopping list most likely includes everything from laptops to clothing to backpacks, so it’s unlikely everything will be at its cheapest at the same time. Our tip is to avoid trying to accomplish all of your shopping at once. Try shopping online, and in-store to find your target items as they hit their lowest prices. Collect store fliers and do a little comparison shopping. Another great way to determine when to find the biggest discounts on merchandise, is on the deal finder site Dealnews. If your college bound kid can wait past August to get a T.V. for his/her dorm room, September and November offer great deals.

Make a List, Do Inventory
First and foremost, get out the list of all required items your child will need during their school year. Set out everything you already have (in good condition), like pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks, etc. If your children require art supplies, go through your drawers to see what items you already have. You may surprised by how much good “stuff” you have leftover from last year! One important thing to keep in mind – school supplies usually change every year according to the grade and teacher preferences, so adhering to the provided list is vital.
And yes, children grow like weeds but you should still take some time to go through their clothes and see what can be salvaged from last year’s wardrobe. They may hate it, but have your kids try last year’s clothes on because if they still fit, you’ve saved some cash!
Two items best bought new each year are backpacks and lunch carriers. Most retailers have these items on sale during the month of August.

Set the Budget

Your shopping list should begin with the non-negotiable items; the things their school requires. Having a good idea of past school shopping expenses will help you establish a reasonable budget. Review last year’s credit card statements and check registers. If you see areas where you overspent, it can be a big motivator in challenging yourself this year to save more by finding better bargains. Of course, the school supply costs rise as your child enters high school and college, but an estimation will still help in budget planning nonetheless.
If you have a little cash leftover after you’ve established a budget, put that money in an envelope and let your kids apportion it out for “want’ items, not on the required list. This will make the shopping more fun for them and maybe a brief deterrent from the fact that summer is winding down.

Buy in Bulk

Not only does buying in bulk save money at the store but you will also be saving money in time and gas by not driving from place to place. Purchasing a lot at once may seem like too much in the beginning, but you’ll thank yourself later in the year when your child needs something and you have it on hand. Kids go through school supplies quicker than parents sometimes estimate. Who wants to run to the store for pencils on a snowy night?
Also, have a pow-wow with other parents to see about sharing the bounty plus the cost to help lighten everyone’s expenses. Pastas, meats, cereals, desserts, pre-made foods and produce can all be found in large quantities at Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club. All of which can be apportioned out and distributed to the other parents thus saving on weekly breakfasts and lunches.

Get on the Web

Include your kids in the research process as this will help them understand the importance of budgeting and hopefully get them excited about the start of school. Online retailers are going to be competitive with each other this time of year in order to get your business so take advantage and comparison shop! Have your kids write down the price of the same items from different retailers and allow them to determine who to buy from. Make sure they include shipping costs, but always have them try to find sites that offer free shipping. You can find a back to school guide at Pricegrabber, which sells basic items like art supplies to larger purchases such as electronics. There is also Amazon,Shopping.comMommysavers and for the college bound, DormCo has a great selection for even the pickiest student.
An additional benefit to your children helping in the shopping process is that they begin to understand the actual costs of school supplies and how important saving money is to their parents. This knowledge may incline your children to take better care of what they have throughout the school year. Who knows, you may see them slinging their backpack onto the floor less and less!

Tax-Free Weekend

Is it surpassed only by Black Friday shopping? We’re not sure, but by taking advantage of a tax-free shopping weekend, you will be making your dollars stretch even further in preparation for the 2013/2014 school year. Considering most states have a fairly healthy sales tax, you could save hundreds of dollars if you have several children to buy for. During tax-free weekend, many retailers offer additional sales and deals hoping to lure customers to spend their back-to-school shopping budget with them. Be lured! This may be your best time to save for school supplies all season. When does this weekend begin? For most states, it begins August 2 at midnight and ends at midnight on August 4. For what each individual state is offering during their tax-free weekend, check this list provided by Forbes.

By starting your back to school shopping early and researching effectively, you can take the whole process in financial stride and hopefully have some money leftover. Maybe just enough to get your kids a few of those “but all my friends have one” items.

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